The 8th annual WriteFest @ Progress Theatre

The night was filled with the sweet lyrics of Carol Anne Duffy, the wise words of Christopher Robin, the informed advice of Roald Dahl and some cheesy jokes – and that was just from the compere Jon Speed.

Although he set the bar high, with some lofty introductions, the plays, written by local winners of the Progress Theatre’s 8th Annual Writefest, did not disappoint.

A Progress panel whittled it down to the best eight plays, which were performed as listed below:

Three Little Words written by Glynn Oram, directed by Anna Jennings, assisted by Deborah Rochfort

A comic-book-strip-of-a-play, Glynn Oram subverts the superhero genre and gender relationships, in a slightly cheesy but playful tone.

With a mix of hidden and confused identities and names: like the archenemy Professor Phobic, the play becomes a farce that seems oh too obvious, until the cheeky wink from Ruth changes your mind.

The Incident written by Liz Carroll, directed by Alison Hill, co-directed by Claire Britton

Liz Carroll’s powerful monologue is crafted to fit the voice of a young domestic abuse victim, who visits her comatosed  neighbour who has been injured in the crossfire of her boyfriend’s brutal attack.

The burden of this type of any monologue-play rests firmly on the actor’s shoulders and Ellen Fernley as Jenny was the star of the evening. She emotively conjures up the victim as she wistfully natters to the limp woman resting in the hospital bed, helped of course by attentive dialogue by Liz Caroll.

This was a gripping piece of work, with a character that could easily be developed into a longer piece of drama, and I hope it is.

The Invisible Guest written by Alison Sweatman, directed by Stuart Merrall

A bleak look at the modern detached society, this heart-warming tale shows it’s the simple things in life than can bring the most pleasure: like a suited man carrying a balloon, or an impromptu birthday party.

In places the didactic dialogue was a little too much and weighted with a humanitarian pessimism, which told rather the showed, but overall this was a heart warming tale that shows people to try something different.

Deja Vu written by Kathy Reid, directed by Laura Mills

A play which tries to set habit against a cosmic reality and does so with witty charm.

Brenda (Christine Moran) and Lilly (Sarah Pearce) meet at their regular pub, drink their normal drinks and nibble on their normal nut snacks.

The play cleverly weaves threads of repetitive conversation, about rowers legs and a nostalgic when-we-were young sentiment, so we not only build a rapport with the characters, but we too are inclined to feel a sense of déjà vu.

So Quick written by David Lea, directed by Kate Shaw

Split between present and past flashbacks, this ambitious filmic play carefully enacts a stroke victim during and in the aftermath of his attack.

Now Peter Fincham is at a diner party and has been set up with Helen who, according to the hostess, he has a lot of common with. Not only are they both snobs, Guardian readers, and fans of Black Adder, she has also suffered tragic illness.

John Goodman plays a brilliant stroke victim, with precision and tenderness.

Our Father written by Geoff Dallimore, directed by Jon Speed

A seamless play that sardonically groans at literal religious interpretation and asks- are you serious?

The wonderfully cast play has Steve Havercan as God who is lamenting about humanity’s take on religion, blaming it all on that scoundrel Moses, who mucked it all up when spreading God’s word.

This is a hilarious play that not only cheekily addresses some of the major conflicts globally but includes a macro look at family affairs too.

Jessica written by Glynn Oram, directed by Laura Barns

A dystopian look at the use of ID cards as a means of persecution and state apathy; this was the most unnerving play of the night.

Everyone is monitored and a foreign woman, (who is mugged, and her identity stolen, and leg broken) is refused help and left to die, to the relief of a xenophobic shop owner who wants her removed from outside his shop.

This is a clever piece of writing that  allow us to look on with horror, foreign to the tragic world.

Separation written by Paul Houghton, directed by Adrian Tang

Compared favourably by the compere with Roald Dahl in it’s propensity to shock, delight and belly laugh , Separation is quite a cocktail.

Although ironically, cocktails are strictly off the menu, in this pub meeting between beer drinking friends Kevin and David, who talk intimately about their relationships: but perhaps too intimately.

The dialogue is fresh and some of the laments of the friends wouldn’t seem out of place in a Tarantino film, with an aptitude to make you squirm.

Until Staurday 19th October at Progree Theatre http://www.progresstheatre.co.uk/shows/the-8th-annual-writefest/

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