Around The House and There is Nothing There

33% London: The Festival For Young Emerging Artists
Oval House Theatre

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Two productions of performances devised, written, directed and acted by representatives of 33% of London - namely under 25 year olds. The Oval Theatre's Festival brings together a group of young, talented artists and showcases them at their best.

The evening began with Around The House at 6.45pm and took small groups of audience around a series of short site specific duologues in all locations from the disabled loo, to corridors, the café, the workshop, and behind the stairs meetings. In all of these nooks and crannies young people are living out their lives and going through the painful, the poignant and the significant moments of existence.

Beginning with Clearing by Shireen Mula a young girl is pregnant by her boss and telling her ex-boyfriend, wishing 'it was yours', excellently acted by Dixon Weinor and Amy Revelle. Next, in No Compromise (by Roy Alexander Weise) a thoughtless, privileged young woman has hired a threatening hit man to do away with her rich boyfriend, only to change her mind. Third, Hakunna Matta (by Elizabeth Gaubert) was an profound portrayal of a young woman looking after her elderly mother, subtly directed (Stephanie O'Driscoll) and significantly well acted by Emily Wallis and Grace Chilton. Fourth came an outstandingly funny piece, A Girl (by Ashley Scott Layton) in which a young man acted out and professed his love to a young woman he had only met once before. This was complemented by Kieran Edwards' brilliant performance, with perfect comic timing.

Exploding on to the scene next were Tuan Ly and Sam Buitekant playfully leading us to their surreal piece Behind the Door (by Sarah Elizabeth Lakin) as these two madcap characters tried to understand the mystery of the locked door. After that we were led to an intense scene in the ladies toilet where a young doctor (Darren Lang) was trying to understand the phobias of a reclusive girl (Amirah Garba) suffering from OCD in Episode by Lucinda Cardey. Finally the production ended with No Man's Land by Danny Shaw, debating the division between the light-hearted musical and the profound play with two mismatched lovers (Harry Bowsher and Elizabeth Gaubert) meeting on the stairs. This piece explored some extensive ideas, to which, in such a short piece, it was inevitably difficult to give full attention, but this is certainly a writer to be praised and we can only hope to hear more from such a studied young mind. This is true of all the young writers and artists presenting their pieces here, and poised in such excellent short plays they perfectly fulfilled the first rule of theatre: always leave your audience wanting more.

The second performance of the evening There is Nothing There (scheduled 7.45pm) presented a different showcase of young people's ideas. In a two hour performance (without interval) four plays were woven together 'about finding your way in a mad world It's all part of growing up, isn't it?'. In this mad world five friends find themselves involved in a protest march with dire consequences, three goth friends find one of their group is going out with a vampire who's also the school geek, three drug abusing girls dream away their life outside a factory lot and finally two old friends find that connection is much more than Facebook posts and text messages.

Dominic Mitchell's Fang Club produced the well timed comedy of the production, with thoroughly amusing performances by all the actors. Wish You Were Here (by Steve Hevey) asked very interesting questions about how young people connect today when so much of communication is performed virtually, and how we react when someone has a 'three dimensional' problem. Laura Neal's The March wove through the evening with building dramatic tension, concluding with some excellently directed movement sequences depicting the crush of crowds and striking consequences of small actions. And Michael McLean's piece took us into the wasting lives of dreaming, displaced, working class girls forever stuck in a Milky Night. While this last piece was less successful than the others, the entire production deftly showed some confident writers combined with some outstanding actors.

The Oval Theatre creates a vibrant, provocative and immensely talented collection of young artists and we can only anticipate what their future will be. For less enduring theatre goers, Around The House is a perfect introduction to just what these young people can do, and for more committed audience members There Is Nothing There shows both a fun and fundamental look at young lives today. From profound to ridiculous - it's all about growing up, isn't it?

Reviewer: Sacha Voit

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