Six plays, six authors, five characters, interconnecting plots set in and around Richmond – all in just two hours. If the restrictions on the plays in this night of new works presented by the Orange Tree’s trainee directors sound a little gimmicky, the pieces are anything but.
Starting with a spooky encounter in Richmond Park during a deer cull, the stories weave in and out of one another with impressive fluidity. In most the settings are simply backdrops – the park, the theatre, the hospital – with the exception of Will Gore’s ‘Portman Avenue’, which draws on a horrific real event that happened last year.
In ‘Goodbye from Me’, John Bowler is both sad and funny as the clown-like comedian whose name-in-lights life has seen (much) better days. It’s excruciating watching his loneliness and despair as he performs the worst gig of his life. The play’s premise is slightly clichéd (a depressed funnyman is nothing new) but the tense atmosphere is created well in Alexander Lass’s production, by aggressive stage and house lights that flick on and off, acting as a spotlight on the man’s slow breakdown.
The characters Kizzy and Fariz pop up several times – initially in the second play, Archie Maddocks’s ‘Kizzy and the Prince’, which is a refreshingly realistic fairytale. Nicola Alexis’s Kizzy offers some down-to-earth advice, which changes Bahraini king-to-be Fariz’s life. These are well-drawn characters, performed with beautiful understatement by Alexis and Ash Hunter in Nadia Papachronopoulou’s simple and well-judged production. They are misfits but it doesn’t stop us pining for their happy ending. It’s Benedict Fogarty’s play ‘Ties’, though, which shows us just how unreachable that ending is.
‘Unrivalled Landscape’ is an evening with many laughs, excellent characters and a lot of intrigue that will likely leave you wanting more from this bundle of emerging talents.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell