Cuba, by Liz Lochhead, is set in Oxford in October 1962, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when people really did think next week would be cancelled. It starts with the narrator Barbara Proctor, played by the excellent Tasia Tate, going through the stuff in her deceased mother’s loft. She remembers the crisis and how it affected her and her friend, Bernadette Griggs. Most of the action, performed by the 15 talented cast members, takes place in a girls’ grammar school and in the respective family situations of the girls, one working-class, one middle-class. They consider “the point of it all”, and challenge the strength of their convictions in a particularly difficult situation with a couple of the teachers. This is a funny, touching and imaginative piece. I found it most enjoyable and thought-provoking. Cuba is directed by Heidi Vaughan.
The Miracle, by Lin Coghlan, is also about two schoolgirls, Ron and Zelda, played brilliantly by Kaziah Garson and Christie Phillips, who experience a flood in their town. Afterwards, Ron finds a statue of St Anthony on the bottom bunk bed in her room and from then on she has magical powers. She can “scan” people to learn something of their inner conflicts and give them useful advice. One such cure involves a pineapple, and another a dog. A troubled soldier, Lorenzo, returning from Iraq, cannot settle back home, getting caught up in biscuit and car theft, so he also goes to Ron. Soon the entire population of the town finds itself yearning for something magical to come into their lives. But it doesn’t last…This too was a thoughtful play, well-acted out by the enthusiastic cast, an entirely different cast to Cuba. It was perhaps a little under-rehearsed in comparison, but I am sure that that will be corrected by tonight. The Miracle is directed by Jo Noble.
These two plays are well-suited to the intimate setting that the Burton Taylor provides. 16|22 aims to give audiences a “positive shared experience”. I think that they did achieve just that this evening with both Cuba and The Miracle.