This review was originally written for The Public Review.
The premise of this collection of four plays is they all stem from a starting three pages of dialog between two people with a piece of paper and a lunchbox as props. Part of the Camden Fringe, the dialog is left deliberately vague and can be edited, reused and order changed hence producing four quite different plays. The first piece, I’m Okay, Are You? by Jo Pockett depicts two characters as self obsessed urbanites, talking at each other about their own relationship. This is a snapshot of a seemingly shallow connection but little clues reveal a deep friendship. This is a punchy little play with a suitably handled and believable climax filled with clever one liners, nicely rounded off with a warming conclusion referencing an earlier spiteful dig at one another. The second play, Done by Caro Dixey concerns someone with a terminal illness assisted by a professional in taking her own life. Contrasted with the first play as is inevitable, the lack of conflict, ambiguity and mystery makes this piece feel self-indulgent. The humour at the end while the patient is at death’s door is a useful device in the structure of the play but the humour involved completely misses the mark.
Next up is Direct Action by Serena Haywood casting the actors as anti-vivisection activists on a mission to sabotage a testing facility. This is a refreshingly alternative interpretation to the previous two and the actors are much more suited in their roles. Maybe because the writer is co-creative director of the producing company of this work, The Pensive Federation along with the two actors. Nonetheless, this work has a fluidity to it with its snappy and smart dialog, where the story flows from the nervousness of the mission to a perfectly plausible twist along with a heartening ending. The final piece is The Beginning Of Love by Sarah Pitard. This is not the worst piece of the four but is the least memorable with the two characters commenting on each other’s relationship. This is more low key and real but lacks showiness which makes it forgettable having associated these two actors with three other stronger roles previously. Despite this, there are some funny lines and gems of insights.
The format perhaps hampers the enjoyment of the plays individually and the shortness of each play helps as much as it hinders. The characters from previous plays linger in the memory a bit too long and before it can start afresh, it is already halfway through the next one. The director Cat Robey and the actors Neil J Byden and Laura Kim manage to distinguish the plays as much as possible despite the limitation of the format. But in the end, the ever present and pesky lunchbox which refuses to shut properly looms too large and even overshadows the writing. It is an interesting and worthwhile exercise in writing and creativity but as a piece of entertainment, it is difficult to enjoy fully.