On Wednesday, Create Theatre hosted a special night of 4 short plays, developed through Mansfield Palace Theatre’s Write Track process. This process aimed to bring the work of 4 local writers to life, as well as providing opportunity for Performing Arts students from Vision West Notts college the opportunity to gain some professional experience outside of college. I think this is a fantastic scheme, and it was great to see young local talent showcasing their skills and creating some brand new theatre!
All four plays were linked via the theme of ‘conflict’, and what struck me the most is how each of the writers approached that theme in a different way.
‘The Conflicts of Colour’ by Laurey Buckland focused on the conflict of war, as well as exploring inner conflicts within the characters themselves. The play was inspired by the paintings of Arthur Spooner (Martin Ford), and explored the relationship of the artist with his daughter Maggie (Keira Draper). The artist is trying to deal with the loss of his sons by painting war heroes (Oliver Maunder and Lewis Strouther), who are being cared for by Maggie at a military hospital. The play is very stylised, with various moments where characters reveal their fears and thoughts directly to the audience, each interpreting the artist’s words in different ways (in much the same way as one would find different interpretations for paintings). One of my favourite segments of this piece was where Spooner discussed the use of the colour, with each character describing what that colour means to them – for the Corporal, who has been missing his family, ‘red’ reminds him of his wife’s lips, whereas for the Private, who is terrorised by the horrors of war, ‘red’ reminds him of the colour of blood. An unusual play, but as I’m someone who likes theatre that pushes the boundaries and makes you concentrate, I very much enjoyed it!
‘Serenity’ by Jack Burrows dealt with a more straightforward conflict – that between husband and wife. The set-up is far from straightforward however – Nikki (Megan Meredith) and Toby (Daniel Shaw) are both recovering from addiction and fighting to get their child back. The play is incredibly moving, as Nikki and Toby both reminisce over their happy memories, whilst under the surface you can tell they both share a darker past. The entire play is framed around the two of them redecorating their house – literally papering over the cracks in their relationship. Meredith and Shaw both gave credibility to the characters and their relationship, making it easy for the audience to buy into their situation and root for them.
‘Home’ by Ian Collinson is set during the 80s, and sees Kerry (Natasha Halton-Davis) return home from university to find that her mum Cath (Molly Canning) and dad Steve (Jordan Taylor) are struggling, with dad on the brink of losing his job – potentially due to Thatcher closing the pits, if the opening radio segment is anything to go by. The most interesting aspect of this piece was the back and forth between Kerry and Cath, as I found myself rooting for one and then the other, which was down to the acting as much as it was the superb writing. Canning was able to show both viciousness as well as vulnerability, whilst some of Halton-Davis’ subtle facial expressions meant that the audience could always tell exactly what was going through her mind. Taylor acted as the go-between, trying to bring the mother and daughter back together whilst also providing some more light-hearted moments.
The final play, ‘Monsters’ by Mark Gale, was another duologue, this time set in a high security prison. The play took place over a meeting between serial killer David (Frankie Moules-Wright) and his psychologist Emma (Keira Draper, in a very different role to previously). The conflict here was different to that explored in the other scenes, with no back-and-forth as such between the characters. Instead, David spent most of his time pacing the stage, telling his story, enjoying being centre of attention. But it was Emma, who remained very still and collected throughout, who clearly held all the power in this scene. This made the moments where her guard slipped and she became frightened or angry at David even more powerful. The interplay between the two characters was both well-written and well-acted, however I feel some parts were perhaps unnecessarily graphic, aiming to shock but going about it in a way that left a bad taste in the mouth. I think the intricate relationship between the two characters was enough to make the play engaging and exciting without the need for this graphic dialogue. With a good (if slightly predictable) twist at the end, and excellent acting (Moules-Wright and Draper both extremely well-cast), this was a great end to a fantastic evening of entertainment.
I hope Mansfield Palace Theatre run the Write Track Process again in future, and I for one shall be keeping my eye out!
‘4 Shorts’ plays again at Create Theatre on Friday 22nd April. More info here:
Tom Morley, April 2022