Review: FIVE NEW SHORT PLAYS, Jack Studio Theatre

The finalists for The British Theatre Challenge provide a varied and interesting evening

By: Apr. 18, 2024
Review: FIVE NEW SHORT PLAYS, Jack Studio Theatre
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Review: FIVE NEW SHORT PLAYS, Jack Studio Theatre There’s a temptation to think that the hardest part of writing a play is the creative side, finding the spark that ignites characters, plot, jeopardy. And, yes, that’s hard enough. But the transition from page to stage is harder still - and very few will find the same satisfaction from the grind of raising finance, rotating auditions, keeping the heating on in a rehearsal room.

That makes competitions like The British Theatre Challenge (a misnomer these days as entries are very much international) all the more important. Just look at the prize!

  • Given a weeks performance at the Jack Studio Theatre, London!
  • Developed by professional directors!
  • Performed by professional actors!
  • Given written assessments by theatre professionals!
  • Considered for publication by our partnered publishers!
  • Filmed in performance by Mini Mammoth Films!
  • A public audience will vote for their favourite!

Broadwayworld went along to Brockley see the five winning plays in performance.

Review: FIVE NEW SHORT PLAYS, Jack Studio Theatre

In common with all the productions, the quality of the acting in the first play was outstanding, a really crucial element in allowing the writing to shine. Each Fallen Robin by Emily Carmichael locks two thirtyish workmates together, transport snowing them in. The woman is outgoing, flirtatious, vulnerable; the man reticent, calm, discreet. It never quite becomes a sitcom - the set-up has often been used for such a purpose - the storyline meandering rather than focused, but the dialogue sparkles and character is explored with a touch of pathos hanging in the air.

Next was more conspicuously comic in its intent, Scott Gibson’s The Injured Party pitting two couples, ultimately four individuals, against each other in a car held up at roadworks. I was certainly reminded a vibe from a legendary episode of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (the safari park one) as tensions came to a head. There were plenty of genuine laughs but perhaps too predictable a plot rooted in somewhat stereotypical middle-aged marital strife.

Can There Be Justice For TJ? by Evonne Fields-Gould is a cry of anguish provoked by a young black man’s shooting by a police officer in the USA. Deeply moving in its rawness, it affected every member of the audience, but, as a drama, it was too anchored in well-trodden ground to engage beyond that sympathy for the mother of the victim and disgust for the authorities’ heartlessness and complacency.

The hideous impact of dementia was the subject of Steve Eddison’s dramatic You Butterfly. An elderly woman slides in an out of alternate realities as her family tries to cope with her ever-changing perception of the world - it’s distressing to watch, as is the intention. Slowly a long-repressed truth bubbles to the surface and more horrors emerge.

The final finalist was a Christmas fantasy set in the Depression in the USA - there was more than a hint of It’s A Wonderful Life about it and that’s no bad thing. The Magic in Christopher by Lee Brodie concerned how a bright lad could dispose of his three wishes on Christmas Eve, as his middle class family prepared for Midnight Mass. In doing so, he learns the value of empathy, the joy of doing good for others and, yes, I’ll say it, the true meaning of Christmas.

That was the strongest of the five for me (be prepared to commit your preferences to paper as there’s an audience vote) but each play had its strengths as one would expect after so rigorous a judging process. I wish all of the writers all the best for the future.

A postscript to express gratitude to Karl and Kate at the Jack Studio Theatre who continue to support new writing, an increasingly important role in an industry that needs it more than ever.  

Five New Short Plays is at the Jack Studio Theatre until 20 April

Photo Credits: Kat Forsyth


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