English Teacher Gillian (Anita Wright), in ‘Why Are You Still Here?’ snips at David Austen roses as she maintains dignity during a brush with scandal by making up new words; ‘contastic’ represents confident and fantastic (as each actor appearing in ‘Tri-umph!’ is). Her husband (Michael Curran) is the source of Gillian’s shame. Curran displays the pain and torture of a gnawing conscience whilst sitting in his wheelchair during the course of Andersen-Bloomfield’s well-metred script. Ellen McDougall directs the gently building momentum of this moving story well whilst bringing a more urgent pace to her direction of ‘Jerusalem’; a play by Lorna Pearson that opens the evening.
Pearson uses the claustrophobic environment of a prison cell to explore ideas regarding the contradictions that lie within religions. A castle stands in the way of the pilgrimage path to Jerusalem. Pilgrims who decide to storm this castle face inevitable incarceration. This does nothing to dissuade one Christian who kills 34 infidels in the process to find he is placed in a cell with a Jew. The ending is short, sharp and sudden, built up by the menacing acting of Naveed Khan as the Muslim king of the castle, Nur al-sayid. Khan’s acting is truly brilliant as he explains to his Christian prisoner how hunger drove the last crusader to eat Muslim flesh.
After the interval Stuart Lee’s 50 minute play ‘Never Tell Them’ takes us back to the aftermath of World War One. A gripping performance is solicited by Director Joe Austin from Steve Hay who as Captain Simon Jones struggles with the guilt of surviving the battle. A strong chemistry is built up between Hay and on stage wife played by Jo Myddelton who seeks the aid of eccentric medium Professor Brailey (Cymon Snow) to try and connect her husband to his fallen comrades and tie up loose ends. With the cold chill of the séance lingering in the studio theatre air, the sheer variety of stories told in such compelling fashion by these three playwrights proves that new writing refreshes the parts other art forms cannot reach.