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20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield

Chris Bush, Helen Eastman, Tim Etchells, Sally Goldsmith, Pete Goodland, Richard Hurford, Marcia Layne, Tom Lodge, Andrew McMillan, DC Moore, Kate O'Reilly, Laurence Peacock, Michael Crow, Stephanie Street, Andrew Thompson, Chris Thorpe, Louise Wellwein
Sheffield People's Theatre
Crucible Studio, Sheffield

20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield

20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield draws together the professional expertise of writers, poets, designers and musicians, who have a close connection with Sheffield Theatres, to work with an ensemble of actors drawn from the local community.

Established playwrights offering 5-minute scripts include Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment), Stephanie Street (Sisters), DC Moore (Straight), Kate O’Reilly (LeanerFasterStronger), whose plays have recently been staged in the Crucible Studio, as well as Richard Hurford and other national and international writers who have a long connection with Sheffield Theatres.

Sheffield Peoples Theatre is the umbrella company which draws together the wide range of talents involved and had its inaugural production in 2011. Without seeing a script it impossible to attribute particular episodes to particular writers, and perhaps invidious to do so in what is very much an ensemble production.

Suffice to say that a wide range of issues and events of importance to the local community are given an airing and enthusiastically presented by the large cast of 60 local performers, ranging in age from 12 to 85. The important thing is that Sheffield Theatres is prepared to accommodate and support a community project on this scale.

With groups of twelve or so involved in the action for the majority of the episodes, the dominant method of presentation is short statements delivered by individual performers. This is effective in the more poetical sequences, but leads to a certain sameness in the production as a whole, and it is a welcome relief when some episodes are sung, and on the one occasion when two actors hold the stage for a well argued dialogue. The production would have benefited from more choral work, as in the exciting encounter in the second half between supporters of the two local football teams.

Although musical director Moony Wainwright provides a continuous musical background to the show, I would have welcomed more inclusion of individual or group singing to add variety. Movement director Lucy Cullingford keeps the performers on the move when the stage is crowded, thus ensuring that the audience has a good view of everybody, and includes some interestingly choreographed sequences later in the show.

There is no doubt that the cast is deeply involved in the variety of issues presented, which range from individual concerns about gender, disability and impotence to more political and social topics like the regeneration of the city, crime, the Olympic ‘legacy’ and the destruction of the iconic ‘salt and pepper’ cooling towers.

Individual personalities emerge and become familiar as the show proceeds. We feel that we are meeting a cross section of the Sheffield community in all its variety, who nevertheless have strongly held common attitudes and interests.

Inevitably with such a large cast of relatively inexperienced performers, there is some variation in technical ability, notably voice projection. But there are many really strong individual performances, particularly from the student or student-age group, but also from older performers who offer a strength drawn from life experience, and the very young boys who are a delight.

Director Andrew Loretto has done a magnificent job in co-ordinating this huge and complex production. Moving the cast in and out of the studio space is achieved with admirable pace and efficiency, and the enthusiasm and commitment of the large cast suggest that this has been an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for all of them.

Reviewer: Velda Harris