Rewritten - Theatre Review


The Pensive Federation is a company that is swiftly cementing a reputation for staging quality new writing, developed through innovative experiments in collaborative practice specifically devised to champion emerging writers. Rewritten follows their Significant Other Festival at the Park Theatre earlier in the year and it presents an equally entertaining and thought provoking series of short plays. The premise is a simple one: four writers were given a simple three page script and used it as a jumping off point to reorder, rework and rewrite until they found their own story. All four plays are then staged with the same two actors and one director.

The opening play, 'I’m Okay, Are You?' by Jo Pockett finds us in familiar territory: relationships. It features two friends, one of whom, John (Byden), is struggling to come to terms with being left by his partner, who, we are told ‘did kinda runaway’ to an unknown location. Despite his self-obsession, compulsive analysing of the situation and apparent lack of interest in his friend’s birthday sexploits of the night before, we see the grief which resides below his shallow exterior, mainly thanks to the sympathetic treatment Byden gives this character. While not ground breaking, the piece is a touching snapshot of the best kind of friendship; one that is robust enough to survive the neuroses of someone in the aftermath of a break-up.

‘Done’ by Caro Dixey, dramatically counterpoints the first piece by delving into the potentially tricky topic of assisted suicide. However, Dixey sensitively handles it with great aplomb and it is Laura Kim’s turn to steal the limelight. Her portrayal of a young woman in the final fifteen minutes of her life is wonderfully nuanced and the conflicting emotions she feels are, at times, positively heart rending. Byden also manages the contrast in style and character well with an understated performance as the man she has hired to assist her. Despite dealing with such emotionally loaded subject matter, ‘Done’ is never mawkish and manages some beautiful moments of bitter-sweet humour. As a result, it is the standout piece of the evening.

The third piece, ‘Direct Action’ by Serena Haywood, lightens the mood with an extremely funny turn featuring two hapless, anti-vivisectionist geeks who have broken into an animal testing lab under the cover of being guests at a Summer Ball. Their presence there is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that they are dressed in formal evening wear. However, we soon discover that all is not what it seems: Alison (Kim) has got carried away, inspired by Jesper’s (Byden) protest badges and has brought him with her under false pretences – there is no plan, no activism camp, no animal rights organisation… just her. Both actors are in their element here, bringing great humour and energy to this loveable pair.

The final play, ‘The Beginnings of Love’ by Sarah Pitard, brings us full circle, back to friends and relationships. Liz (Kim) is deciding whether to deliver a Dear John letter to her married lover. Michael (Byden), her sardonic housemate, is there to support her, but we get the impression that his investment in the situation is perhaps more than platonic. This piece has some nice moments between the two, but the narrative feels a little underdeveloped and the characters less finely honed than in the other pieces. However, once again Kim and Byden handle this well and still manage to make it engaging and extremely watchable.

Director, Cat Robey has done a marvellous job of bringing these four plays together intelligently and coherently. There are some wonderfully light touches to the direction and I particularly enjoyed the use of music (four different versions of The Beatles, ‘And I Love her’) and the minimal set to keep the transitions between plays and characters on stage. This effectively shows the actors literally and metaphorically ‘disrobing’ each character and donning another. It also gave some breathing space for the audience to reset themselves in between each play, but without derailing the overall pace.

Rewritten is a fantastic hour spent in the company of some compelling characters. They share snippets of their lives, and in turn encourage us to question the nature of the lies we tell ourselves and others, and the unavoidable truths we must face in order to negotiate our closest relationships and find meaning in an often solitary world.

© Madelaine Moore 2013
Reviewed 22.8.13 as part of the Camden Fringe Festival 2013

Duration - 1 hour

Cast Names - Neil J.Byden & Laura Kim
Director – Cat Robey
‘I’m Okay, Are You?’ written by Jo Pockett
‘Done’ written by Caro Dixey
‘Direct Action’ written by Serena Haywood
‘The Beginnings of Love’ written by Sarah Pitard
Company Stage Manager – Davie Oakes

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