After a month of pre-showcase coverage by Miro Magazine, theatre editor Daniel Perks finally catches the new writing evening, Little Pieces of Gold.
A new writing showcase is a fascinating opportunity to see what has recently caught the attention of fringe theatre makers. For Little Pieces of Gold, the eight plays by emerging writers, 15-minute snippets of topics that have either consciously or subconsciously been at the forefront of their minds, open a window into the irritations that the next generation are currently itching to explore.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal had clearly galvanised many people
Speaking with Artistic Director Suzette Coon at the start of the year, I realised how certain topics instantly jumped out of the latest round of submissions, let alone how prominently they featured in the final shortlist:
“The Harvey Weinstein scandal had clearly galvanised many people to put pen to paper – we received a lot of plays about sexual harassment and issues around consent. One of the most interesting and deftly constructed plays we received on this subject is called The Petal & The Orchid, written by Clare Langford and Gabrielle Curtis.”
Watching the Little Pieces of Gold event last night, I am also struck with how this intelligent short brutally cuts to the bone – a take on the issue that asks us all whether we are prepared to rank sexual harassment and rape in order of magnitude. Is the abuse of a woman by a co-worker, with whom she has previously had an illicit relationship with, as serious as the systematic, continued, violent abuse of a whole society of women in a country that still deems them to be property rather than people?
“It is not fair, but it is true”, speaks out Marilii Saar, the manager of a foundation that provides empowerment and aid to girls in a third world country who are frequent victims of horrific sexual abuse. She is less than sympathetic when employee Lydia Bakelmun brings up her own historic case of abuse against the charity’s chief patron. Director Brigitte Adela deftly approaches the issue through a comprehensive exploration in her rehearsal process. This is one of the most impactful shows of the evening, and the work put in behind the scenes shines through in all elements of the final performance.
But it’s not the only story that centres around consent in this Little Pieces of Gold showcase. Rachel Tookey’s The Dress, sensitively directed by James Ronan, explores the subject of a historical abuse between a married couple twenty years after the event. The myth that sexual abuse only occurs between strangers, or in violent relationships, is quashed when Crown Court judge Shuna Snow exacts revenge on husband Stephen Hudson after suppressing her rage for all those years. Tookey’s script slowly ekes out the root of the issue by extrapolating on the unsaid subtext with great effect. As Lydia Parker phrases it in one of my visits to the Little Pieces of Gold rehearsal room,
“I have a problem with plays that spill out their guts all over the place. So often I come across plays that are full of exposition – people don’t talk like that normally! It’s less interesting for the audience – they need to be left to figure things out for themselves.”
I have a problem with plays that spill out their guts
Subtext is another prominent theme of the evening. Lydia directs Consolea, an uplifting end to the showcase that puts Laura Evelyn and Solomon Mousley in a first date situation with a few hidden twists and turns. Laura Jayne Ayres’ script creates the awkward atmosphere that Lydia uses to her advantage. It’s a pause and response exercise that shows how in reality, we rarely know what to say.
Consolea is an example of writing that effectively observes and emulates the everyday. In a similar way to Grace Carroll’s Swipe, or Zoe Mace’s First Time, these new writers show that theatre can be a window to appreciate the little moments in as a valid a way as addressing the more prominent social environment:
“I’m really interested in theatre that’s very simplistic, reflective of real life and focussed on little things that I see in myself – real human behaviour”.
During rehearsals, Zoe comments on her work First Time, which is the most effective at taking full advantage of the awkward pause. Director Anthony Houghton is determined not to let the dialogue overpower the overall concept and non-verbal cues are carefully practiced such that they seem completely spontaneous. It ends the first half with an uplifting, if endearingly awkward, encounter, in just the same way as Consolea closes out the evening on the whole.
Three final works round off this programme of new writing, one that like many of its works gives the industry hope for the future, as showcased by the writing, directing and performing talent that Suzette brings together. Drew Hewitt’s Whatever It Might Mean is a darkly comic dystopia, one that cleverly exposes our nation’s reserved fear of emotional intimacy. Yasmin Joseph’s Do You Pray? is another angle on our strained sense of showing tenderness when one generation disapproves of the choices that another makes. Alice Allemano’s Now You Don’t flips this feeling of isolation on its head – what happens when we are physically isolated from the world and the only way to regain our connection is to reach out to a complete stranger? Three works that in their own ways add to the conversation of morality, propriety and traditionalism that we have existed under for centuries.
Little Pieces of Gold draws to an end once again, a mammoth effort by Suzette and the backstage team. As a theatre journalist and editor; as a champion of the Off West End and fringe theatre scene; as a theatregoer constantly blown away by new writers and the potential that the next generation of theatre maker has to offer, I draw so much strength and energy from seeing kernels of work in these kinds of evenings. It’s invigorating to watch out for each of these wonderful creatives and note their future work. Hats off to Suzette – Little Pieces of Gold lives up to its name. Suzette however, she’s much more than gold – she’s a diamond of the theatre scene.
For more information about future Little Pieces of Gold events, visit the website here.