Seize The Stage: Rich Mix - Theatre Review

All the rage

London, 19th April 2014

All The Rage Theatre present:

Seize The Stage: A Festival of New Theatre by Women

All The Rage Theatre was established to promote and celebrate collaboration between female makers. Over six weeks, six writers and directors shared skills and insight, while pushing the boundaries of the writer-director relationship.

Showcased at the RichMix centre in Shoreditch, Seize The Stage was organised as an afternoon for female theatre makers to meet together and show ‘scratch’ performances of their latest work. While the audience was predominately female, it was gratifying to see that there were a number of men there who were in interested in and participated in such an event.

Before the afternoon kicked off, Lydia Rynne of All The Rage Theatre, briefly talked about what sparked the genesis of this event. She had observed that there was a lack of women playwrights and directors showcased during the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebrations. However, instead of letting this be a source of division, she thought the most appropriate response would be to facilitate ongoing cooperation between current female theatre makers and celebrate the talent that is around now.
Six pieces of varying length were performed that afternoon, which were divided into three pairs of plays that complemented each other thematically.

Tortoise (written by Naomi Westerman and directed by Katharina Reinthalleer) was inspired by decades of mental health reports and how psychiatric cases were treated less favourably when consultants were told they were about women. Initially showing the line of questioning that patients are subjected to, individual characters were fleshed out more fully and Tortoise offered interesting views on mental illness versus conforming to society’s norms. This unfinished play was a good choice to open Seize the Stage and set the bar for the rest of the afternoon.

The second (nameless) work-in-progress (written by Sophie Wing and directed by Marianna Periera) revolved around two sisters who lived on an island with their grandmother and mother, and as a consequence lived in a very insular world, but rich in imagination. The sisters’ relationship was well-developed, as were their respective interests and personalities.

In contrast to the first hour, the second pair of pieces performed were lighter in tone and revolved around young women in their early 20s. The third (nameless) work-in-progress (written by Chloe Todd Fordham and directed by Holly Race Roughan) focused on two friends who went out clubbing. As the narrative jumped back and forth in time, we saw how misunderstandings arose and why the night didn’t turn out as planned.

Similarly, Smashed (the fourth work-in-progress written by Isobel Dixon and directed by Gemma Kerr) focused on a group of students who decide to get sozzled at home. During their merry-making, they have fun playing with toys, consume lots of Haribo sweets and make some astute observations about their lives.

The final third of the afternoon reverted back to heavyweight drama that tackled difficult topics. The fifth (nameless) work-in-progress (written by Isobel Dixon and directed by Gemma Kerr) addressed the topical debate of children having access to questionable content from the internet. However, instead of being pornography as one would expect, we find out that it is of violence of the most extreme kind, and that some suspect this is linked to the father’s occupation as a photojournalist in the world’s troubled hotspots...

Scumbags, the final performance of the day was the last of a triptych of plays that worked as a standalone piece. Written by Kimberley Andrews and directed by Helen Donnelly, the action took places in a housing estate where a woman befriended a girl who’s run away from home. Things are further complicated by the fact the child’s ‘parents’ took her from her real mother years ago and that the woman’s boyfriend has ulterior designs for the girl... Scumbags was gripping and at times I was clenching my fists, for fear at what the events in the play seemed to be leading to.

When Scumbags finished (which incidently was the end of all the performances for the afternoon) the audience were emotionally exhausted, but in a good way. The final play, and the afternoon as a whole, was quite extraordinary and I felt like we were privileged to be the first to have seen these plays.

To conclude, I think I would be right in saying the afternoon was a resounding success. Not only did female theatre makers have the opportunity to network, but the variety and quality of the pieces performed were inspiring, reminding everyone of the talent within those four walls. This was the first event organised by All The Rage Theatre and on the strength of what I saw, will be the first of many more.

(C) Michael Davis 2014

Author's Review: 4 stars

Twitter: @AllRageTheatre

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