BWW Review: FEAST FROM THE EAST, Tristan Bates Theatre
Over the past five years, INK have developed and produced over 150 new short plays by writers who have strong bonds with East Anglia. After showcasing them in their annual festival in Suffolk, they've taken their newest selection to London for the first time since their inception.
Feast from the East sees nine brief pieces presented with a recurring cast: Another Suitcase, Another Hall (written by Richard Curtis), Invisible Irene (by Jackie Carreira), Ping Pong Club (by Ed Jones), After Prospero (written by Marta Loader), That's Great! (a script by Shaun Kitchener), Nina's Not Okay (written by Shappi Korshandi), Wellington (written by Scarlett Curtis), Mixed Up (by James McDermott), and A Selfish Boy (by Christopher Reason).
The line-up is stable in its thematic lines, spanning comedy and drama with balance and pace. It's, alas, not as diverse as one might wish but it presents notable performances and a variety of stories nonetheless. From the sheer humor of Another Suitcase, Another Hall to the lost love's eulogy of Mixed Up, exceptional comedic timing is alternated by emotional reflection and a steady feminist vein.
Artistic director Julia Sowerbutts (who also directed Richard Curtis' opening with Huw Brentnall) curates a collection that's homogeneous in its quality standard. As a whole, the small theatrical bites tackle topical subjects like femininity and growing old, as well as identity and generational differences; societal expectations, the notion of family, and feeling at home are also central - but everything is accompanied by a good, hearty laugh at the core.
The cast are a marvelous machine, nailing down their chemistry and rhythms and bouncing off each other's inputs with each director managing to achieve a compatible style. Ed Jones is terrific in all his appearances: from the devoted stagehand Godfrey in the first installment (where he manages to leave a mark with barely any lines) to Rory in the extremely well-characterised That's Great!, he is deliciously subtle in his delivery.
Ann Bryson is also a highlight as she takes on the title role in Invisible Irene, the exquisitely brazen single middle-aged woman who's having a big clear-out of her wardrobe. After Prospero features Amber Muldoon and Tessa Wojtczak, who are as entertaining as sisters Ariel and Miranda as they are reflective and poignant in Loader's nuanced and sharp re-imagination of Shakespeare's characters.
It's an impressive start for INK's partnership with The Actors Centre at Tristan Bates Theatre, featuring exceptionally crafted episodes conveyed through an accomplished and driven company of creatives.
Photo credit: Origin 8 Photography