Review: Finding Home

Mercury Theatre

DEPOT Cardiff

11/10/21

Image: Jorge Lizalde

Taking place in the cavernous warehouse venue, DEPOT, Finding Home is an affecting and powerful piece of theatre exploring stories of homelessness. Framed by a fictional memorial service for those who died while homeless, Finding Home tells the story of a varied group of characters who find themselves thrown together into a makeshift family, as they face the challenges and hardship of life without a home.

Megan, Cobbit, Bagsy and Lola make an unlikely family, but in each other and in “Hafan,” the derelict office block they occupy, they find some refuge from their individual struggles. But plagued by shellshock, alcoholism, mental health issues, grief and fear, each character is pushed to their limits, and through these central stories and those of side characters, the audience sees how different those individual limits can look.

Nick Hywell, Bethan Morgan, Sarah Pugh and Elin Phillips all deliver strong performances as central characters in the play, but it is Gethin Alderman that stands out as Bagsy. “A missing person who doesn’t want to be found,” Alderman’s Bagsy is a heart-wrenching character who teeters on a sheer precipice as he tries to soothe his mental and emotional hurt by cooking for his friends. In a striking ensemble dance sequence, Bagsy’s agonising tipping point is sensitively and powerfully portrayed by the core cast and the chorus comprised of performers from Hijinx Theatre, Oasis Refugee Centre and Emmaus South Wales.

With its dance elements, heartbreaking musical interludes, beautifully integrated BSL interpretation, and pre-show exhibition and performances, Finding Home brings together numerous threads to weave an absorbing tale. Carl Davies’ design and Jorge Lizalde’s projections surround the audience, who are seated on two sides of the playing space, creating a sense of immersion in the world of the characters, and bringing a sense of realism to what is an intensely theatrical work. An expansive production, Finding Home explores an enormous topic through intimate, personal stories, drawing its audience into the realities of homelessness through deft theatrical storytelling.

Review: Aalaapi

La Messe Basse

Assembly Showcatcher

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

“It is a kind of expression to be silent because what we are hearing is beautiful.”

Aalaapi is a layered online theatre work, combining a radio documentary in which five young Inuit women speak about their lives, and the on-stage production in which two other Inuit women, Nancy Saunders and Ulivia Uviluk, listen to the radio documentary. As the audience watches these women through the small window in their house on stage, they are given a window into Inuit culture, and the lives of women living within it.

Directed by Laurence Dauphinais, Aalapi uses the radio as it’s centre point, grounding the rest of the activity on stage around it. For the majority of the show, the audience only sees the performers through the small frame of the window, but the radio is always present as a centrepiece of the household and an important cultural object in Nordic communities. Layering the trilingual soundscape of the radio documentary with the chat of the women on stage, Inuit throat singing, the ever-present sounds of the landscape, and beautiful informative projections of words, maps and landscapes animated by Camille Monette-Dubeau, Aalaapi immerses its audience in Inuit culture for 80 minutes, at first in the position of outside onlooker, and by the end as a welcomed visitor.

This is not a fast paced plot-driven show, it simply invites its audience to sit, listen and consider. It is poetic and meditative, taking on the pace of a long dark winter evening spent in cosy familiar company. Though the information it shares through its documentary elements is important to share, the truly striking feature of Aalaapi is this slow, naturalistic pace. The act of having two women on stage just chatting, living and listening to the voices of other indigenous women on the radio feels gently radical. There is no need for the idealised strong female lead in this play, because it celebrates the reality of women who are allowed space to be both strong and vulnerable in turn, who don’t have to do something extraordinary to be seen. It makes space for the real day-to-day lives of women to be represented.

Constructed with skill and ingenuity, Aalaapi is an absorbing and immersive piece of documentary theatre which demonstrates the true power of representation on stage. La Messe Basse have created an extraordinary work about ordinary lives.

Aalaapi is available to stream on demand via Assembly Showcatcher until 30th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Review: Metamorphosis

Hijinx

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Summerhall Online

25/08/21

What do you have in common with a ‘monstrous verminous bug?’

Before you indignantly shriek “Nothing at all! How dare you!?” and slam whatever device you are reading this on down and storm away insulted by the question, prepare yourself for worse – you may have more in common with it than you think.

Taking Kafka’s classic story of travelling salesman, Gregor Samsa, who finds himself transformed into some form of horrifying vermin and remains trapped on his back in his room as his family and colleagues live their lives around him, Hijinx take an inventive and entertaining look at parallels between the original text and the transformation we all underwent during Covid-19 lockdowns.

From a hilarious remote audition process, in which Lindsay Foster and her ring light momentarily steal the show, and directionless break-out room rehearsals to performance, the cast present a Zoom-play within a Zoom-play. As they prepare to present this play, it becomes clear that all is not right, and life begins to mirror fiction, with unsettling messages in the chat, flickers and cuts to characters seemingly undergoing transformations, and domestic spaces unsettled.

Punctuating and framing this story within a story, is the Kaf Bar, where the cheery barman invites the audience to chat, meditate with ‘the guru,’ enjoy a drink, and respond to existential polls. This is set as a friendly space outside the action of the place, but the changes of the play soon impinge on this space too, and like in other moments, the themes of Kafka’s work bleed into the ‘normal’ settings, shedding new light on the ideas of the original text.

The direction and design of the piece makes full use of the online setting, openly acknowledging the Zoom platform (and the challenges it brings) rather than pretending that it is not there. Director, Ben Pettit-Wade uses the production’s online platform to great effect in moments such as that in which a face is constructed, Frankenstein-like, from close up images of individual features of the cast, and in which the cast commit recorded faux-pas in a Zoom breakout room during rehearsal. In streaming the work live, Hijinx have also opened up a world of interactive possibilities for the audience, which are deftly handled by Owen Pugh as the Barman.

Treading the line between surreal and bizarrely real, Metamorphosis holds a theatrical mirror up to the transformations of the past year, and through laughter leads us to ask important questions about identity, care, isolation and connection.

Metamorphosis runs live at Summerhall Online until 29th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Review: Fow

Deaf & Fabulous/Taking Flight

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Summerhall Online

Almost all of the best drama in love stories boils down, in one way or another, to communication, or a lack of it – from Darcy’s ill-judged proposal, to Harry and Sally skirting around the edges of friendship for years. Fow is no different. Three characters, one speaking mainly Welsh, one using mainly British Sign Language, and one English, find their paths intersecting in unexpected ways and have to figure out how to overcome barriers in communication far beyond those posed by their respective languages.

Lissa is deaf, and the combination of living with her difficult Instagram-influencer housemate, lack of communication with her family and struggling in university has her on the defensive, so when Sîon accidentally stumbles into her life, he doesn’t get the warmest reception. However, as they spend more time together, and begin to understand each other, that changes. Throw in a surprise visit from Lissa’s chaotic older brother Josh, some spectacular arguments, and a romantic gesture that belongs in the Pantheon with John Cusack holding a boombox and Hugh Grant impersonating a member of the press, and you have all of the ingredients for a classic romantic comedy.

Though, like many other shows in the past 18-months, Fow was filmed on Zoom or a similar platform, it does not feel like it has lost theatricality in its transfer to a trio two-dimensional boxes. Using frames, backdrops, puppets and paper speech bubbles, Becky Davies’s design creates a theatrical space reminiscent of photo-story comic strips, making use of its confinement to Zoom-boxes. Such clever construction and adaptation is a hallmark of this show, with Alun Saunders’ script blending three languages to great effect and bringing the audience along on the journey of communication gaps, miscommunications and eventual understandings that the characters traverse.

The three performers, Stephanie Back, Ioan Gwyn and Jed O’Reilly, all deliver impressive and convincing performances, sustaining the energy of the work on screen for almost two hours, while never overcompensating and losing the easy, natural relatability of their characters.

Fow is a precise, insightful and entertaining play, which prompts us to question what language and love mean to us.

Fow is available to stream via Summerhall Online until 29th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Review: Few Are Angels

Three Chairs and a Hat

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Online@theSpaceUK

Setting several of Shakespeare’s famous women into modern-day settings, Few Are Angels invites its audience to revisit the Bard’s female characters in a new light. Directed by Wayne T. Brown, Cleopatra sits in a dark cell, wearing a striking red dress, and performs her monologue to a CCTV camera, Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream finds herself on a nondescript suburban path, and Much Ado about Nothing’s  Beatrice lights up a cigarette and texts the first few lines of her dialogue.

Some texts transfer more easily into their modern settings than others. Mistress Page’s monologue lacks some of its original context, and Beatrice’s one-sided dialogue with the silent camera standing in for Benedict loses some of its meaning without Benedict’s lines. In contrast, the setting of Cressida’s monologue in the scenario of a woman on a dating site transfers easily and brings a new humour to the monologue as Cressida sits in front of her laptop in her tiger onesie with a box of chocolates and a glass of wine to hand. Similarly the Courtesan’s monologue from The Comedy of Errors fits perfectly into the setting of a neighbour in her marigolds and curlers chatting over the garden fence. Those monologues which find a foothold in the zeitgeist, whether through cultivating a garden as many of us did in lockdown, online dating, or chatting with neighbours from a distance, find the most success in their updating.

The highlight of these is certainly Julie Todd’s tear-jerking rendition of Fear no More the Heat o’ the Sun from Cymbeline. With new music composed by Nia Williams, this dirge accompanies the story of a recent widow, with a montage of scenes from her husband’s final moments as he lies in bed wearing an oxygen mask, and her gradually adjusting to an empty house. Touching on a grief that is familiar to many people in the past year, this scene stands out as a heartfelt example of how an old text can apply to new settings.

Just as the updating of Shakespeare’s text is mixed in its success, the quality of execution in the filming of the work is patchy. I found myself reaching for the remote control at the start of each monologue, having to adjust the volume between levels 5 and 20 to keep up with the unstable volume levels of the work. Though the monologues have clearly been directed and performed with filming in mind, the technical quality means that the work feel uncomfortable in its digital setting, leaving its audience with the feeling that they have not seen it to its full potential.

Bringing these characters, who would originally have been written to be played by young men, into the present day played by a large cast of women, Few Are Angels begins with a strong concept, though stumbles in its adaptation and digital execution.

Few Are Angels is available to stream on-demand until 29th August.

Review: Gash Theatre Gets Ghosted

Gash Theatre

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Assembly Roxy Online

Described as a referential piece of immersive digital theatre, Gash Theatre Gets Ghosted is an exuberant and incisive piece of theatre. Opening with a credit sequence that references old B-movie styles, and continuing to pepper effects and tropes from the genre throughout the show, it is clear that Gash Theatre has embraced and celebrated its digital platform. This is not just theatre transferred onto film, but truly digital theatre which revels in the possibilities of this new hybrid art form.

The show opens with the two creators and performers Maddie Flint and Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn running away from some unknown pursuer and eventually finding their way into the apparent refuge of an abandoned apartment. However, all is not as it seems. Amidst old flyers and posters upturned TVs battered armchairs and flickering lamps two women find themselves haunted by the gendered expectations and outdated clichés that have been created by popular media. This apartment is possessed by the ghost of pop culture masculinities

Utilising references and soundbites from classic romantic comedies and other well-known film and TV scenes, over-the-top impressions of hegemonic masculinity in the form of a Kiss-singing werewolf, conscious exposure of theatrical artifice, and surreal chitchat between animate household objects, Gash Theatre creates and entertaining yet incisive piece of theatre which questions our assumptions around relationships sexuality and gender politics.

As they eventually break out of this den of macho masculinity the two performers invite us to consider what it would feel like to break out of the confines of cultural expectations and unplug the dominant narrative. Ellis-Einhorn and Flint are pushing boundaries in both theme and form. Gash Theatre Gets Ghosted is an accomplished and inventive piece of digital theatre, which demonstrates the technical capacity of its medium, while retaining an engaging theatrical essence at its core.

Gash Theatre Gets Ghosted is available on demand until 29th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Review: Taiwan Season Online Performances 2021 – A Glimpse of Taiwan

Summerhall

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Online On-Demand

***

Ai-sa sa

Tjimur Dance Theatre

“Peel away each layer
And behold what lies behind
Away it goes; tears well in your eyes
Off it falls; you can’t help but smile
Layers collapse; laughing, weeping intertwine”

At the core of Tjimur Dance Theatre’s Ai-Sa Sa is an awareness of balance, of stripping away layers to find the basic balance of things – red apple/green apple, laughter/tears, care/violence. Even in form, with its blend of filmed stage work and made-for-film scenes, Ai-sa sa holds balance at its heart.

No emotion lasts long in its portrayal on stage, and the four strong cast of performers (Ching-Hao Yang, Ljaucu Tapurakac, Tzu-En Meng, Sheng-Hsiang Chiang) flit naturally between contemporary dance, physical theatre and song. With a rapid, but not rushed, pacing, Ai-sa sa brings its audience on a colourful journey through the mercurial moods and shifting relationships of the characters on screen, deftly portraying themes of impermanence, changeability, and equilibrium.

Drawing its name from a modern Paiwan phrase, used as an interjection to laugh at your own attitude, Baru Madiljin’s exuberant work reminds its audiences to get over themselves and go with the flow – “Ai-sa sa, and shake it off!”

The Back of Beyond    

Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre 

Another work which explores ideas of balance and equilibrium, Hsiu Wei Lin’s The Back of Beyond is an intense and absorbing work. Bringing together elements of both Eastern and Western aesthetics, choreography, ritual and spirituality, this work from Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre composes cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Opening with the dancers engulfed in shrouds which they will return to and cast off at several points in the performance, like chrysalides, The Back of Beyond takes a pace that is at times meditative, at others almost uncomfortably slow and at yet others, frenetic and unsettling. The company demonstrates skill and focus as an ensemble, sometimes breaking away into individual movement, but often moving as though part of a single powerful organism, lead by the heartbeat of the work’s entrancing elemental score.

Though not a work for those who like a pacy, direct narrative, The Back of Beyond (which was originally designed as an immersive live experience)is a captivating show in which you can lose yourself to the powerful choreography and the design which delves into the spaces between light and dark to mesmeric effect.

Fighters

Les Petites Choses Production

Based on a classical work of Chinese literature, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nai-Hsuan Yang’s Fighters is a light-hearted work which examines dancers’ relationships with their bodies and minds in this global time of uncertainty and isolation. Where its source text is famously lengthy and complex, Fighters is a condensed fifteen-minute work which, even though I could not understand the narration or find subtitles, is engaging and accessible.

Staged in spaces that sit between the domestic and mythic, Fighters blends hip-hop and contemporary styles to create an entertaining new depiction of heroism, which many people will recognise after the past year of pandemic-life.

Touchdown

Incandescence Dance

A dance work based on physics, which culminates in a visual art installation was always going to catch my attention, but Hao Cheng’s Touchdown went beyond that and captivated me.

Asking the core question, “How can one entity be recognised as two things at once?,” Touchdown uses a discussion of the nature and action of electrons to delve into deceptively philosophical ideas. By flipping the camera angle, Cheng and the dozens of sticks of chalk around him initially appear to be magnetically attached to ceiling, and this sets the tone for the inversions, diversions and contradictions that will be uncovered in this twenty-minute work.

From using himself as a compass to draw concentric circles, to examining the history of concepts in physics, Hao Cheng draws his mathematical background into his choreography and in doing so finds new avenues of creative exploration, which address age-old questions in innovative ways.

All performances in the Taiwan Season are available online via Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 6th August to 29th August 2021.

On The Horizon – Talk Transcript

Recently I was invited by Dirty Protest Theatre and Fishamble to be a part of a panel at their online event On The Horizon| Ar Y Gorwel| Ag Bun na Spéire. It was a brilliant afternoon of panel discussions and play readings looking at the connections between the arts industries in Ireland and Wales, and I was delighted to be involved. By the time I closed my laptop at the end of the day, my mind was buzzing with all of the thoughts and ideas that were shared, and I am excited to see the connections between the two countries continue to evolve.

***

I’m speaking as an artist and arts worker who is Irish and has worked in Wales for the past two years, both as a freelance writer and theatre critic, and as Touring and Projects Officer with National Dance Company Wales and Company Manager of Richard Chappell Dance. Shortly after I moved to Cardiff, back in 2019, I sat down to write out my thoughts on moving to a new country, and I thought I might start by revisiting that short piece, called The Little Things.

It’s the little things. The short hop across a skinny sea to a city similar yet made strange by small details.

The nocturnal noises, just alien enough to pierce your sleep and rouse you to a foggy consciousness, a sleep-muffled moment of – “where am I?”

It’s the little things. The wide-awake walk home until your autopilot comes up to date.

The turns of phrase that give double take as you take them in for the first time – hearing “cheers drive.” Sentiment no different, but not your bus-stop thanks.

It’s the little things. The accents among which you’re the novelty in a sea of the usual vowels made unfamiliar.

The question of what jam to buy – getting it wrong going for the cheapest “mixed fruit preserve” but eating it anyway.

(Because in small ways some things are just the same.)

It’s the little things. The shower dial turned to the right temperature for the first time without thinking.

The place recognised by surprise and remembered – map rendered unnecessary in your pocket.

It’s the little things. The words recognised on signs as you find yourself learning.

The faces you pass each morning on your walk to work – soon to be the usual strangers that you’ll know but won’t.

It’s the little things. Your name on letters to an address no longer house-share-advert abstract.

Small things, those details in change, as the strange begins to rearrange itself to something you newly know.

It’s the little things.

And the longer I live here, the more I realise that it is those little things that connect Ireland and Wales, those little things that made a new country a little bit familiar.

Over several years working in theatre in Ireland, I had found a community. I could barely walk past a theatre without ending up stopping for a chat to someone I knew, my laptop automatically connected to the wifi of pretty much every venue in Dublin, and a fair few others across the country too, and in the same way you know who’s getting married, graduating, being christened in your family, I knew all of the shows that were opening, rehearsals beginning, programmes launching across the country.

When I decided to move to Cardiff, I braced myself to start from scratch. 

Only when I arrived, I realised I didn’t have to. Just as people in the Irish theatre industry opened their arms to 17-year old me when I turned up, began writing, knocking on doors and getting involved in everything I could, as soon as I said that I was moving to Wales, people over here opened their doors and put the kettle on. Within no time at all, I was finding myself in foyers at matinees surrounded by familiar faces and friendly conversations, and I realised that I had a web of connections and community not just in Cardiff, but across various parts of Wales.

It’s that community which is the lifeblood and heart of both Irish and Welsh arts. There are plenty of similarities between the two countries – both are bilingual, both have connections through Celtic histories, both countries are defined by lush landscapes and rich cultural heritages, and hey, we’re even connected through Ireland’s patron Saint, St Patrick, who came from Wales. But the defining similarity, which transcends and encompasses all of the others, is a sense of community. When it comes to the arts in both Wales and Ireland, that sense of community doesn’t just mean local communities, but a national community.

This can present its own challenges – if we don’t enact this sense of a close-knit industry conscientiously, we run the risk of closing doors to people, and making people feel that they are left on the outside. I’m sure we all know too well the dangers of settling too comfortably into the familiar, and always working with the same people, always programming the safe bets, always hiring the same faces. If we aren’t careful, the industry can become small and insular, lacking diversity of voices and perspectives. And the last thing the arts industry needs, is another means of gatekeeping.

When I started my career at 17, I was in a lucky position – I had been exposed to theatre from a young age, I had a knowledge of the industry, and I was studying drama in University. We need to make sure we are creating an open community that not only welcomes people in positions like mine, but that welcomes those who have never set foot in a theatre before. As bell hooks writes, “To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.” In both Ireland and Wales we have the strong bedrock of a community, and we need to be vigilant and aware of what we build from that.

We need to make sure we are building communities that not only include people we are familiar with and who are familiar with the industry, but the neighbour around the corner who feels that dance “isn’t for her,” the teenager in school who can’t afford to risk studying drama in university because of high fees and low job certainty, or the recently arrived refugee who is in a direct provision centre and has their access to the arts limited by time, space and cost. As The Care Collective put it in The Care Manifesto, we need to foster an industry “in which we can support each other and generate networks of belonging,” with “conditions that enable us to act collaboratively to create communities that both support our abilities and nurture our interdependencies.” With advances like the Universal Basic Income pilots in both Wales and Ireland, the appointment of Andrew Ogun as Arts Council Wales first “Agent for Change,” movements like Waking the Feminists and We Shall Not Be Removed, and ongoing conversations about how we change practices for the better as we emerge from the pandemic, we are beginning to work towards those networks of belonging. But we need to push further, open ourselves up to new ways of working, and get busy making the many small changes that make big ambitions a reality.

Wielded with generosity, compassion and care, the deep-rooted sense of community in both the Irish and Welsh arts industry could bring with it a model for theatre of the future, a theatre that is open and accessible to all. If we use our connections to people and places wisely, listen intently to those who need to be heard, and make changes to our ways of working, hiring, collaborating and creating, if we make a difference through all the little things, then we stand to not only open the doors of our industry, but to tear down the dividing walls altogether.

Originally delivered as a live talk at Dirty Protest Theatre and Fishamble’s event On The Horizon, 17th June 2021.

Doing What We Do Best, Better

Photo by Austin Chan, via Unsplash

Originally published on http://www.takeyourseats.ie

In the latest Government Covid-19 announcement, we heard the news that we have all been waiting for; theatres are soon able to reopen. Whether you met the news with a muted sigh of relief, or an exuberant whoop of joy, it is an exciting moment. More exciting, in fact, than just a return to normal. As we reopen our doors and get back to doing what we do best, we have a chance to do better. Now is our moment to examine what we do and how we do it, and consider how we might need to change as we move into the future.

One heartening example of this is the recent announcement of the Basic Income pilot scheme for people working in the arts in Ireland. As the National Campaign for the Arts stated, the scheme “has the potential to be an historic milestone for the arts in Ireland, a reflection of a nation that truly and authentically understands and supports the artistic process.” By providing artists and arts workers with a guaranteed basic income, you take away some of the precariousness of depending on a freelance income, and in doing so allow people to do their best work and advocate for fair and sustainable conditions for that work.

In another version of sustainability, as we return to buildings it is the perfect moment to consider our environmental impact. Many venues and organisations are already making great strides in this respect, with Dunamaise Arts Centre recently publishing an impressive ‘Greening Dunamaise’ update, Síamsa Tíre receiving a Julie’s Bicycle sustainability certification, and several venues working with Theatre Forum on their current Greening Venues Pilot Project. Outside of venues, we can all make a difference; whether you’re a theatre-maker deciding how many flyers to have printed, or an audience member deciding how to travel to a venue. Each little decision we make will have an effect. Choosing to cycle to a show or take the bus instead of driving might seem like a trivial thing, but if a hundred audience members all make that choice, it adds up to a lot. As we go back to normality, let’s not go back to all of our old habits. Take a moment, make a choice, and do your bit to make a difference.

Beyond the background, and onto the stage, there are new approaches to be explored, boundaries and limitations to be broken. Break down the barriers of concepts like “high-brow” and “low-brow,” banish the perceived division between “arts” and “entertainment,” and ignore the boundaries between artforms, themes and audiences. After a year of communicating at a distance, now is the time to reach out and find community. With works like Brú Theatre’s Ar Ais Arís, which connects small groups of audiences in Gaeltacht communities all along the Atlantic coast, Pan Pan’s Mespil in The Dark, which explores thoughts of loneliness and community through a series of short episodic performances, and nationwide events like Cruinniú na NÓg advocating for creativity on a national scale, it feels like this is already happening. So let’s push it further, make the arts the web that supports communities. Whether it’s through a local pantomime, a touring opera, a school play or a céílí (when we can dance together again!), let the people around us be at the heart of all that we do. Make and consume art with generosity, openness and no preconceptions, and open wide the arms of the arts and invite everyone in.

I recently read a quote from the writer Don Miguel Ruiz, which struck me and stuck in my mind. “Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.” Shake up the tempo, syncopate, make the arts the biggest dancefloor imaginable, and as we find ourselves back in theatres, studios, parks, galleries and other shared spaces, let’s dance our way to a better rhythm together.

Review: Threesome

Almost Professional Productions

Brighton Fringe

03/03/21

The nerves of meeting a new potential housemate are an experience most of us can relate to. Will they be nice? Will they be messy? Will they be loud? Will they be a serial killer who eats small kittens on sandwiches?

This is the situation that Eve and Alex find themselves in at the start of Almost Professional’s debut show, Threesome, written by Eric Silver. The pair are housemates, living in London and looking for someone to fill the empty room in their house, before they have to pay the rent in it. Judging by their tumultuous argumentative friendship, in which Alex reverts to cynicism and sarcastic quips as his defensive default response, and Eve is loud, overbearing and impatient – they also need a third housemate to balance out their dynamic. Enter Evan, the prospective housemate who grew up in a cult, delivers his opinions with no filter…and is unlikely to bring balance to anything.

As the Zoom-call between the trio takes ever stranger twists and turns down tangents of religion, cults, homophobia, sex, rats and a wide range of other topics, there are some moments of sharp, witty writing and character. However, Threesome, which was originally conceived as a live, staged production, falls foul of the transfer to the digital medium. The at times over the top acting style may have added to the comedy on stage, but boxed into the restrictive format of Zoom, it comes across as strained and over-done. Similarly, moments in which characters break the fourth wall fall wide of the mark, lacking the definition they would have had on stage to make them effective interludes in the conversation between the trio of characters.

Zoom-transfer aside, the production felt underdeveloped. Though it included many funny moments and strong characters, there were several instances in which ideas were introduced into the script that felt out of place among the rest of the characters’ conversation. A discussion about the character of Eve considering sleeping with her boss to get ahead in her career veers towards a conversation around feminism but is cut short, and similarly the final moments of the play feel abrupt. There is no director listed in any credits, copy or press information, and that lack of a director with a view of how the performance works as whole may be the reason for these uneven patches in the show.  

Taking the familiar setting of meeting a prospective housemate, and exaggerating and playing with it to create a comic and entertaining play, Threesome is a promising production that leaves some key dramatic threads untied and finds itself frayed at the edges.

Threesome is available to stream as part of Brighton Fringe Festival until 27th June.