Tonight I went to the final of the three nights of free plays put on by Almost Random Theatre. Before I write any more I should point out that a) this is not an official Daily Info review and b) I am the founder of Almost Random Theatre and thus am likely to be somewhat biased.
So - what have the three nights been like and have they been worth it?
First of all, seven short plays have been watched by an audience of average size 25 (not bad for pub fringe, mid-week) and all the plays have been FREE. Therefore it is difficult to value the evening in monetary terms. Although each play was short, the evenings always finished with audience-lead improvisation so the whole evening was probably about 60 minutes each time.
Plays performed included Role Play (Derek Webb) and The Carol Police (Keith Johnson). Local actors were used throughout and all praise to them for giving up their time.
But what about the quality?
This has varied. Plays such as Twins (Dan Abrams and Olivia Frazier) and The Intricacies of a Sherbert Lemon (Frazier, Kyran Pritchard and Emily East) went down very well. Some others seemed somewhat under-rehearsed.
When the plays finished, the cast and audience mingled, so as the evening was based in The White House pub (Abingdon Road) the evening lasted a lot longer than the one hour.
This Friday/Saturday ART are putting on The Sentence (by Martin Lytton) starring Stephen Rees and Katie Floyd. This is NOT free - tickets are £5. There is at least one 'bonus play' included in the deal. This play is ultra serious and has two experienced actors - well worth a visit.
Almost Random Theatre, the local company managed by the energetic and prolific Chris Sivewright, is making The White House in Abingdon Road, a must-visit for theatre enthusiasts this week. A.R.T are presenting a series of short plays, played by professional actors absolutely free of charge! The programme is a variety of plays selected from "Pint Sized Plays" - a collection of prize-winning plays from a national competition.
Last night's offering opened with The Lady and The Tyger, or William Blake's How I Met Your Mother by Trace Crawford, performed out of doors; and The Intricate Workings of a Sherbet Lemon by Stuart Lee. This was performed inside.
Neither play was over-rehearsed or ornamented with complex props, sound or lighting. Stripped bare, the excellent scripts still worked well. The company received enthusiastic applause from those lucky enough to catch the hour in which they took place (8.15 - 9.15pm).
Olivia Frazer played in both productions, demonstrating her versatility and ability to sustain contrasting characters; in the first play - a sexy, forward vamp, inviting Tristan Robinson to touch her ... (How did he ever resist that!) and in the second - a serial killer seeking out another victim for her dastardly cunning poisoning.
In both plays audience reaction demonstrated a high level of involvement. In the second play, a weird, lone male encounters a woman awaiting a late night train. Kyran Pritchard transmitted the hairs-on-the-neck fearfulness very well. The scary loneliness of the situation made for dramatic ambience that was almost tangible inside the small audience space.
Tristan Robinson and Emily East completed the casts in somewhat patchy dramatisations. For all their rough edges, however, these pub plays were a delightful addition to the warm friendliness of this pleasant inn. There are more plays at eight o'clock every night this week. The feast of free theatre ends on Saturday.
"A Pie and a Pint and a Play" with only TWO of these to pay for. Can you beat that?