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Days Of Our Lives

A mixture of short plays, monologues, music and tears by emerging new writers in Oxford.
Friends' Meeting House, Wed 11th - Mon July 16th 2012

July 12, 2012

Dark Days and Lighter Days

First I must make two caveats:

1. Although I am a Daily Info reviewer, this review is not on behalf of D Info.

2. I was compere for the plays and am heavily involved with Almost Random Theatre so my review is somewhat biased…but I will try to be objective.

This review covers the first two nights – Dark Days and Lighter Days.

Over two nights over 14 different plays were performed. Several of them had never been performed before. In addition there were several improvisations, a song, some monologues and the reading/acting of a short story. Over fourteen different actors were used.

Plus there were free refreshments provided by the sponsors Nut Butter Punch.

The theatre was only formed a few weeks ago and receives NO government funding..

The evenings were scheduled to be two hours but on both occasions the actual performances lasted for three hours –a real bonus. The main reason was the success of the improvisations.

The programme gives full details of the actors and writers plus a link to the website.

In other words everything seemed very well organised – and credit for that must go to Heather Dunmore, veteran organiser of the Oxford Fringe. The entrance fee (£6, £5 concessions) is also very low.

The plays vary from being ultra serious (murder, paedophilia, bequeathing money after death) to comedy (Dementia, Letter to MP, Would that it Were.)

The order of the programme is that a serious play is followed by comedy – this keeps us all alert. The acting is first class – considering there are few props and no set design. (The venue is Friends Meeting House)

At the end writers and actors all take bows – good to see.

Should people go? Well the next performance is Port Mahon which, though smaller, has more facilities for lighting and music. Given the wide variety of types of plays etc then anyone and everyone who loves theatre should certainly attend – but be prepared for audience participation! (Plus any profits go to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.)

I love the theatre and when I heard of  "Almost Random Theatre" I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I turned up none the less. The eclectic mix of improvisations from the "audience" throws you into the randomness of the performance. One minute you are watching waiters screaming orders at the audience the next you are witnessing an awkward dinner time. Thrown into the mix, are well devised plays, showcasing everyday life situations in out of the ordinary surroundings. Serious matters such as murder and paedophillia are covered, but there are also  comedic rants in such plays as "Letter to MP."

This mixture truly shows that theatre is a living, breathing entity taking you on a random journey.

This is a first-rate evening of local talent on display. The evening has it all - a mixture or improv, some tried and tested 10 minute plays by local writers, and yet more challenges for the actors set the task of expanding 1 minute plays to 3 minutes (which they do seamlessly). The upstairs room in the Port Mahon became a spooky forest, a restaurant, a doctor's clinic, a weird railway station, and much more with a superb cast of local actors taking on multiple roles. All of this was brought together by the quite superb MCing of Chris Sivewright. A packed audience (there was standing room only) got their money's worth and seemed completely enthralled by the plays and the acting.

The City of Oxford is witnessing a major growth in home grown theatre - what with the Oxford Playwrights 'Playbites', the Oxford Actors Network productions, and now this. Shakespeare in the Bod is all well and good for the tourists, but if you want to see something genuinely new by local talent then get yourself along to the next production by A.R.T. A fantastic evening's entertainment.

An highly innovative evening of play-lets, penned by local writers and acted by a mixture of them and professional actors in intimate settings. A real flavour of Oxford writing talent and a great night out for £6.00.

I went to this last Wednesday and also Thursday. The two nights were completely different so I saw over 20 short plays and still had change from £15. True value for money. This time the venue is different - Port Mahon - and as there are improvisations too then the evening will also be different!

According to the ART website Monday night will be a mixture of comedy and thrillers - ideal. Certainly the plays, the songs, the monologues and the jokes have been fantastic so far. I especially liked the Addiction and Going for Gold monologues, the Sherbet Lemon play and the free refreshments!

What also seems to be original is the high degree of audience participation

I strongly advise everyone reading this to catch ART performances when you can!

Great performances of good contemporary authors and charming atmosphere, they will bring your emotions highly up, from the deep, smooth and soft thinking - reviewing variety of life pathways, up to the teary laugh :) Recommended!

Tonight I went to Lighter Days produced by Almost Random Theatre.

Comedy, intrigue, murder, songs and sad monologues (Addict) were all there. Absolutely superb acting with a really neat balance in the programme. If a play was all doom and gloom then it was followed by comedy and/or improvisation.

Can you name any theatre in Oxford that gives you free refreshments or three hours of high quality entertainment for a bit more than a fiver?

Everyone should go, go, go!

Almost Random Theatre, a bright new star in Oxford's glittering galaxy of talent, is the creation of Chris Sivewright, ably assisted by the company's artistic director, Heather Dunmore. They offer original and varied theatre in bite-sized chunks presenting plays, monologues, songs and music, devised, written and performed by local people. Chris and Heather, both writers, from the Oxford Playwrights group, have selected new writing from other creative writing groups, too - like the Turl Street Storytellers in these colourful concerts.

The audiences get a great deal for their money - over two hours of original scripts and free interval drinks from the sponsor, Nut Butter Squash, too! Despite a disappointingly small audience on the second night (rather common in Fringe Theatre, it has to be said!) the shows earned many laughs, warm applause and provoked lively conversation and discussion. There are some impressive performances, too, from a multi-talented cast of local professional actors. Mary Stuck's stunning monologue Going For Gold, by Penny Thomson explores the erotic thoughts of Mary on her Golden Wedding; Emmeline Brayfield brought Stuart Lee's award-winning thriller, Intricate Workings of a Sherbet Lemon to Spine-chilling life;, and showed the same power of dark suggestion in My Name is Caroline Korby, by Heather Dunmore - brilliantly supported by the sinister acting of Paul Barrand and Nicola Borthwick; Steve Walker talked us through the problems of a Book Addict with convincing poignancy in David Olsen's, sharply satirical, Confessions of an Addict and there were many more.

The three shows are all different. They also include writing from David Gregory, Julie Adams, Doc Andersen Bloomfield, Joel Kaye, Birte Milne, Lorna Pearson, and myself (Gwilym Scourfield) and acting from Richard Ward, Daria Smiechowska, Imran Mirza Kyran Pritchard and Angharad Andersen-Bloomfield - who provided musical interludes and flute accompaniment.

Almost Random Theatre is new, but bold enough to experiment, innovate and allow full participation. The evening is a communal delight. If it errs at all, it is on the side of more content than the hours can comfortably accommodate and providing these talented actors with more material than could be totally mastered in a short rehearsal period. Neither of these minor carps, however, detracts from high quality original entertainment. The last of these shows is on Monday at the Port Mahon in St Clements. It is well worth a visit - whatever the weather!

Yesterday's night of well written scripts came as a triumph for the actors. The hard work on a short amount of time has paid of for a enjoyable night. For a humble night out come and watch the second night tonight.

I went to the 'Darker Days' element of Days of Our lives last night. Right from the beginning - which in itself was highly original, if a little unsettling - the whole evening was one of sheer excellence. Extremely well-written plays; masterful acting (no script in hand) free refreshments; free programme - two and a half hours of entertainment for just £5 (student discount).

OK enough of that. Now, the plays themselves. There were monologues (Addiction, Uncle George) that started off as being sad but ended by being extremely funny. Serious plays, murder (Sherbet Lemon anyone?)and threats (Caroline Korby). Comedies - - Would that it were - hugely funny, and I am sure anyone from Oxford Uni under the age of 35 will recognise themselves!

What else?

Improvisations! Fantastic! - with the topic and setting chosen by the audience.

What a first night - and the great thing is that the second night is completely different which, for a new company, to somehow devise, rehearse and organise 14 actors, 30+ plays in just a few weeks (and so far, no mistakes) is recommendation itself!

The first of three, Dark Days, was really entertaining and well worth going to see - a fantastic variety of material from improvised pieces pulled out of a hat to well acted and excellent scripted ten minute plays. There are two more nights to go - don't miss it!

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