O, What a Lovers’ War by Karen Ince. Directed by Diana Mills.
The first play was focused on the First World War. This is a period of history I’m quite familiar with, as studying history has helped me understand the different sides of the war. I’m studying the downfall of Tsarist Russia in history and it’s linked with involvement in the First World War and I also recalled visiting Australia and reading up on the ANZAC troops involvement in the War. My mum was confused as to why the Union Flag appeared at the end, but the flag in its current form has existed since 1801.
The play focuses on two similar stories about men going off to war. One has a young man from a working class background going off to war for the first time, the other has an old soldier who fought in the Boer War and wants to serve his country again. The play intercuts between them and their wives, who react to the war in different ways.
The reactions shown are what happened in reality, with women joining the war effort through work in the factory as well as focusing on the votes for women movement. There’s also mention of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), which is an all-female charity that specialises in nursing. They were active in both World Wars and are still around now under the name Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps.
The Dreaming by Richard James. Directed by Lorraine Biddlecombe.
The Dreaming is a great meta-narrative that plays with theatre conventions. Two people, in a bare room with no names, try to figure out who they are and why they are in a room. As they investigate, they figure out that they are merely characters created by a playwright for the purposes of a play – and the script that they are saying is not very good, which is intentional.
This premise is genius. The characters, One and Two, are constantly questioning narrative conventions. Two is critical of the cliché dialogue that he has been forced to say, whilst One is objecting to the lack of a plot. The ending has the characters realise that what they are experiencing is enough for a one-act play, and Two states that he imagines it’ll be pretentious and experimental.
This kind of self-deprecating humour is hilarious. I love meta narratives, whether it be Doctor Who’s frequent self-deprecation and deconstruction such as Carnival of Monsters and Dalek or Deadpool and Logan’s deconstruction of superhero films. I adore media that has awareness of what it is and media that critiques itself and conventions of what it is.
This play mocks the minimalism of theatre as well as pretentious stories that pretend to be clever without meaning anything. The characters are not real people – they’re just made up as the writer imagines them. But because these characters have awareness of their surroundings, they are quick to criticise their creator – they’ve been given no personality, no plot and no ending.
A pretentious writer would be quick to state something stupid such as “nothing is everything”, but this play rolls with that quote and mocks it, being deliberately vacuous and leaving the characters to figure out everything. It’s all done in a tongue in cheek manner that makes the audience fully aware it’s not taking itself seriously.
The characters are correct – there is no plot or character progression, but because it’s done deliberately it’s perfect for the vibe of the play. It’s quite a similar approach to last year’s haunted house spoof The House of Fog that ended last year’s trio of plays.
Pina Coladas by Matthew Meehan. Directed by Matthew Meehan.
The third play is a nice variation on an Agatha Christie set up. Two men receive mysterious invitations to a party, only to find they are the only ones there, other than a moody waitress. The invitation insists they order only one drink, a pina colada. From there, a very interesting and funny story emerges, with lots of twists and turns.
I love stories that revolve around character dynamics, and the minimalist setting lets the characters argue, which leads to hilarity. The contrast between the two men is great – Peter is older and more polite, whilst Richard is younger, louder and more obnoxious.
The play gradually turns into something unexpected, as what appears to be a simple character piece turns into something darker. I did not see a certain twist coming, although in hindsight it was obvious what was going to happen. It’s a very well paced piece – just when you think you know what’s going to happen, the opposite happens.
To conclude, this was a great evening. All three plays were hugely entertaining and different. There was drama, comedy, twists and laughs. I’m looking forward to the summer production, A Bunch of Amateurs and the autumn production, which is Blackadder. Oh yes.
See another review by Allison Symes: April Trio of Plays – The Chameleons – Review by Allison Symes