Review: The 24-Hour Plays

Image credit: CUADC

11pm, Mon 2 Dec 2013, ADC Theatre

Five short plays of only ten minutes each, a limited cast and no budget, and only 24 hours to write and rehearse a piece of original writing: the ’24 Hour Plays’ are a highpoint in the Cambridge theatrical calendar, and this particular iteration was interesting, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable to experience. This was helped in part by an audience hugely encouraging of this difficult endeavour. This ensured a very friendly and jovial atmosphere which allowed for real experimentation and individual takes on the theme (namely, ‘kinky’). To round off the evening, the event was judged by professional director Lotte Wakeham, who offered advice and a critical eye and awarded prizes for individual and group performances.

The five ten-minute plays presented varied hugely. ‘The Unrelated Velociraptor’ saw some fantastic comic characterisation brilliantly brought to life by Robbie Aird (Trinton) and Guy Clarke (Eduardo), and made superb use of props, although I felt the link to the theme was slightly tenuous. The other overtly comic play, Touch My Kinks, I personally found less appealing, but it nevertheless works wonderfully as a whole, surely the most cohesive and complete of the pieces. The Happy Victims certainly contained successful actors, particularly in Katie Robertson (Judy) and Jamie Webb (Tom), but I felt some of the ideas used were cheap, predictable and clichéd, almost offensively so: I would have hoped we had moved on from associating ‘kinky’ with ‘homosexual’, although the piece also included a more forgivable allusion to ‘kinky’ as referring to hair-styling. There were also two pieces relying more on individual performances than on character interactions: the monologues of Pieces, particularly brought to life by the superb acting of Charlotte Quinny and Emma Riggs; and Show 6, which was completely captivating from start to finish, although suffered slightly from fitting three scenes into so short a period of time. Arguably, this variety ensured there was something for everyone.

Certainly I disagree with some of Wakeham’s award choices: for instance, I found Show 6 by far the most engaging, and would therefore not have awarded the award for Best Show to The Happy Victims. Yet the awarding of prizes – and the brief breaks between shows to allow for scene changes, during which audience members were able to discuss their immediate thoughts – encouraged a strong critical engagement amongst the audience with an exercise which, ultimately, lacks the scope to be truly moving, but can nevertheless be thought-provoking.

The shows were not without their flaws. Some lines were naturally less successful; a couple of the shows overran slightly; not all the scripts engaged fully with the theme, and not all will have appealed to all audience members. Despite these issues, the overall experience, being part of this experiment into breaking the boundaries of traditional theatre and seeing what the Cambridge theatrical talent can come up with under pressure, is something truly special. I cannot wait to see what next year’s teams come up with.

8/10

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