Significant Other Plus One, Tristan Bates Theatre - Review

Celebrating the fifth anniversary of Significant Other, the annual gender-neutral new writing event, The Pensive Federation this month has added another twist to the proceedings. With the addition of a third person to each of the short plays, the possibilities have opened up considerably and in my opinion, the plays work even better than before. Rather than write about everything in depth, I'll choose a handful of the plays that resonated with me.

The first play of the evening, Gluttony (written by Julie Burrow and directed by Jessica McKenna) has Lizzie (Leah Lambrakis) a not-so-confident woman who is meant to be going out with her friend Emma (Sarah Leigh) at a social function. While Lizzie initially agrees her friend can use her credit card to purchase a new dress, it's on the understanding that she would would wear it on their night out. Instead, Emma wears it to go out with somebody else. As way of assauging some of her guilt, Emma books a female companion for Lizzie (with Lizzie's own card, naturally). The 'companion' in question, Frankie (Leanne Everitt) proves to be a real boon for Lizzie, though not maybe how she's envisaged. Frankie opens Lizzie's eyes to the true nature of her relationship with Emma and how shallow are the foundations which it's built on. What I really like about this play is the way it doesn't sugar-coat friendships. While the best, 'genuine' friendships/relationships have a two-way traffic of respect, there are certainly those where it is one-sided and continues in the same vein because of the goodwill of the one who doesn't want to rock the boat. Sometimes it's okay to say "No".

Gamma by Olivia Collinge Gawn. Directed by Bridgette Adela. Anna (Annie Jackson) and Tam (Tamara Camacho) share a flat, but Anna is clearly agitated by the imminent arrival of her stepbrother Alex (Jared Rogers). When Alex does arrive, he gives a housewarming present of sorts – an 6ft tall inflatable dinosaur, just waiting to be blown up. Tam gets on well with Alex, but he's aware that his stepsister's acting coolly towards him, and pretends to not hear her comments. Then the truth comes out... Another great little play where the third person's presence is a catalyst for a chain of events. Anyone who has ever had parents divorce knows how the siblings often takes sides. Seldom is one parent seen as 100% blameless and when infidelity is cited as a reason for a divorce, there are always strong feelings on the matter. A well-observed play (and the first of several plays over the course of the evening to use the inflatable dinosaur)!

The Last Crusade by Barry Dunstall. Directed by Jayne Edwards. Answering an ad for a spare room to rent, Olivia (Sadie Clark) meets  Penelope and Danny (Joanna Reyes and John Rayment). While Danny's busy making assembling a flatpack bed, Penelope enquires about Olivia's profession (a psychotherapist) and why she's moving to the area. The conversation moves from Penelope talking about her parents to Olivia tracking down her own father – Danny... Like the previous plays, another great dramedy, with a natural balance of humour and gravitas.

Good Things/Bad Things by Oliver Selby and composer Lemon Otter. Directed by Neil J Byden. The musical numbers that appear in Significant Other are always a treat and this one is no different.  Roger Dipper's character is 'seeing' two ladies (Antonia Bourdillon and Lydia Shaw) at the same time – and they find out about each other... A very funny segment of the show – arguably the most memorable, with great performances from Shaw and Dipper.

ITV by Jonathan Edgington. Directed by Lucy Curtis. Courtney (Helen Jessica Liggat) pops round to visit Veronica (Madeleine Moore) to watch their daily dose of daytime television on ITV. Veronica, however, suggests to Courtney that they can watch Loose Women and Jeremy Kyle later. Instead they could watch stuff from Sky's Arts Channel or BBC4 instead. This horrifies Courtney, but decides to stay when she finds out Veronica's subscription to Sky's Arts Channel also includes Carlos (Steven Mills) – an android who is indistinguishable from a real man, able to converse about the arts and much more beside... When Veronica takes a phone call from her mother, Courtney and Carlos get to know each other and it becomes obvious that Carlos wants to spend time with her too... Another very funny play. On the surface it's a straightforward idea, but it subtlely pokes fun on 'lofty' cultural goals that we supposedly aspire to versus spending time with 'right' other person.

I think most people who attended this time will agree this is a vintage year for the Significant Other Plus One event and it will be remembered with fondness for a long time.

© Michael Davis 2016

Significant Other Plus One ran at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 29th February to 5th March 2016.

Details of the other plays that took place each evening:

Bronze by Elizabeth Adlington. Directed by Kasia Rozycki – with Rowena Bentley, Luke Lampard and Ben Carpenter.
Strikes by Anna-Sophie Marie. Directed by Noa Nikolsky – with Rhiannon Story, Tara Dowd and Zoe Mills.
Autumn by Tom Powell. Directed by Joe Allan – with Rachel Agustsson and Sophe Fagon.
Roast Beef by Jasmine Jones. Directed by Alan Walsh – with Kim Burnett, Alex Dowding and Karl Sedgwick.
Puppy Dog Tails by Paddy Cooper. Directed by Anthony Cozens – with Hannah McClean, Jessica Aquilinia and Adam Buchanan.


Author's review: