Review: The 24 Hour Plays

Gemma Sheehan 30 November 2016

As the title suggests, this play was particularly unique, even for Cambridge theatre. Written, blocked, directed and acted all in the space of 24 hours, the fact that there was anything to be seen is a testament to the skill and dedication (and perhaps slight madness) of these students. But the shows were a success! They ranged from the hilarious to the poignant to the downright weird, often within the space of a few lines, but the performances never felt too awkward or hesitant. Although of course there were some moments that could have been polished, and some writing that perhaps would not have passed the most stringent editing, the overall experience was refreshing and rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All four short plays were performed with infectious enthusiasm and had the audience firmly on their side, laughing along with the more quirky characters and dialogue. The overall theme was ‘Strangers’ and each piece developed this in a very different way; we began the evening with a politically astute but also comic dystopia that drew on the idea of Trump’s wall, and was complemented by the use of sound and lighting, including a clip from Trump himself. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic music and slow motion when the ‘wall’ of books was surmounted in the ‘resolution’, as well as the humorous interactions between the privileged, fur-coat-wearing Adele (Amaya Holman) and her comically submissive husband (Comrie Saville-Ferguson).

We then moved to ‘The Third Man’, a wacky sci-fi piece that showcased the humour of caricatures such as the over-eager geologist (Esther Sorooshian), and I would certainly give my vote to Luke Baines’ hilariously manic, banana-wielding mechanic for the next star of Doctor Who. However, if I had to choose one script to be developed further it would be the third play, which dealt with the delicate subject of suicide in a thoughtful and gently humorous way that I would love to see developed into a full play. The script was nuanced and clever, with a genuinely touching presentation of a child whose response to a potential suicide was to suggest growing raspberry plants, and was maturely dealt with by the cast.

The audience’s vote at the end went to the final play, the intriguingly named ‘Zooouija Board’, in which the slightly strange premise of a man who felt he was a cat met a girl haunted by a penguin she had accidentally killed. For me, this piece at times felt a little like the madness of an improvisation exercise, but the sheer weirdness won over the audience, and Ania Magliano-Wright was excellent as the ghost of a decidedly sardonic penguin.

These shows were never going to be the most technically impressive or smoothly performed pieces of theatre, but the enthusiasm of the entire cast, not to mention the dedication of the directors and writers and many others behind the scenes, made this a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you are looking for a completely fresh take on theatre, and are ready to laugh through some of the less professional moments, then I hope this play returns so that you can have as much fun as I did.