Whey Down South devised by Sam Parker and Alex Robins – The LAB, Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Full disclosure: I have left writing this latest batch of blogs far, far too late. I only have hazy memories to draw on here, having seen it well over a month ago. So all of my opinions are super vague – I’d suggest seeking out an actual review if you want a proper sense of what I mean!
Whey Down South was devised by one of Theatre Royal’s LAB companies – a scheme that puts together a group of artists, nurtures their talent and aims to create a company. The Narwhal Ensemble are definitely one of the scheme’s success stories. They seem to fit together perfectly, creating a sweet tale that is both routed in locality and fairly universal in theme. From what I remember, it’s a story about the impact of modernity on rural communities and how friendships change as we grow older and forge new paths. The piece features songs that suit its tone perfectly. There was some storytelling via the medium of milk and cups that I didn’t always fully get, but that was the only flaw I found. I really enjoyed the play and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
IdeasLAB – The LAB, Theatre Royal Plymouth
IdeasLAB is a sort of scratch night offered by Theatre Royal Plymouth. It allows local creatives to showcase early stage work and get a feel for how it could develop. I saw 4 fifteen minute extracts, all of which were impressive in their own way. It was my first experience of filling out feedback forms for a show. I have a feeling most of my feedback was essentially useless, I’m not great at deciding what I think spur of the moment. I really enjoyed the night though. It’s a great example of what TRP is doing to help develop talent in the area. It was also another chance for me to experience something new. I’ve never attended a scratch night or anything like it before but it’s something I’ll be doing a lot more often now!
The pieces I saw were:
Efferus Collective’s Pithed – a dance piece inspired by the case of a woman who lost all sense of proprioception. It was unsettling at times, with some great live drumming to accompany it.
FullRogue’s WILD SWIMMING A Brief and benighted history. – an extract from a play (I think!) discussing gender roles throughout history, told through the lens of a couple on a beach, possibly going for a swim.
Chris White and Poppy Pedder’s KIN – inspired by Black Mirror this short play presented a dystopian future where humans are permanently linked to someone, their KIN. It presented how loneliness can creep in, even within a close relationship. Despite dark themes it was funny throughout.
Alex Robbins’ Bear With Me – Ostensibly the story of a writer getting his leg caught in a bear trap and coming to tell us the tale. It blurred the lines between truth and fiction, what was performance and what wasn’t. And featured some honey eating bears.
I’ve added in those fairly dry descriptions of plot because the pieces were all in their very early stages. I figured it’d be a bit of a dick move to be writing reviews of them. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all of the pieces develop from here.
PlayLAB – The LAB, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Tiny Details by Jon Nash, Of the Soil by Run Like Stags, Followers by Alexandra Ogando and Snip by Lucy Bell
PlayLAB is a night dedicated to showcasing and developing new work. A festival of short plays all built around the loose theme of speaking freely. Each performance featured a group from Theatre Royal’s Engagement and Learning department: Young Company 14 – 18s for Followers, People’s Company over 25s for Snip, Young Company and People’s Company 18 – 25s for Tiny Details and this year’s LAB company (Run Like Stags) for Of The Soil.
I really enjoyed every piece. The beauty of a night like this is that if something isn’t for you it will quickly be followed by something that might be. Wasn’t an issue here though, they were all enjoyable. Some beautiful music and an intriguing premise from Run Like Stags, some sinister conspiracy theorists from Jon Nash, some laugh out loud moments from Lucy Bell and energetic fun from Alex Ogando. Every play presented interesting ideas. Of course, there were aspects you’d love to know more about and points you’d like to see go even further but that’s the nature of short plays. The acting was of a really high calibre given that most of the performers aren’t professionals. Lots of promise overall, I’m really glad a night like this exists.