The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
Scenes For Survival: Getting Close, Listen To Me, The Maid's
Room, Running Out, 68 Months In Waiting, Three Billion Swipes
National Theatre of Scotland Summer 2020
With all theatrical
activity blocked by Covid-19, the National Theatre of Scotland
commissioned more than fifty short – ten minutes or under –
scripts that could be performed and recorded in lockdown conditions.
Originally broadcast on BBC Scotland, they are now available online.
This random selection of
six seems representative, suggesting that
there are more gems to be found. Generally limited to one or two
performers, the plays are quick character studies or anecdotes.
obvious comparison is to Alan Bennett's Talking Heads series. While
these shorter pieces can't develop the same depth or texture, the
most successful are either wholly satisfying miniatures or evocative
beyond their brevity.
While some of the plays
adopt the Bennett
chat-with-the-camera mode, others use lockdown as their subject or
medium – for example, by employing the thin vertical format of
camera phones or the split screen of Zoom conversations.
Salisbury's Three Billion Swipes is the online speed date of a
mismatched couple (David Rankine and Kirsty Findley), while Catherine
Grosvenor's Listen To Me shows an out-of-work actor (Taqi Nazeer)
essaying a new career as an inspirational online lecturer.
couple don't quite connect, while the actor realises he needs
inspiring even more than his putative audience does.)
Getting Close shows enforced isolation driving a woman (Nicole
Cooper) into into yearning memories of a lover she hasn't seen in
almost a decade. In Aine King's Running Out a woman who has fallen
into lockdown lethargy (Victoria Balnaves) finds the impetus to start
exercising in a desperate bargain with God.
Two plays with
supernatural overtones have little or no connection to the pandemic.
Nelly Kelly's 68 Months In Waiting is set in a dystopic future when
all transgendered people and other unacceptables have been banished
to a remote Scottish island. Now being attacked even there, one
survivor (Afton Moran) takes inspiration from another (Jo Clifford)
who may be the Spirit of the island and fights back.
Radley's The Maid's Room is an almost-generic ghost story in which
the owner of a guest house (Gerry Mulgrew) tries to cope with a
poltergeist whose activities are getting him bad Tripadvisor reviews.
As that summary
suggests, the tone of these pieces ranges from sad
through bittersweet to bemusedly comic. Of these six, Grosvenor's
actor's tale and King's determined jogger are most successful in a
complete-in-themselves way, while McKean's nostalgic lover and
Kelly's transgendered rebel are sketches that leave you wanting to
know more about these people and their stories.
There is certainly enough here to draw you to browse among the forty-plus others.
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