Yellow Leaf Theatre
Customs House, South Shields, and touring
It's an odd fact that you are more likely to see a good production from a small-scale touring theatre company than from a mid-scale one. Why this should be is not at all clear but, in my experience at any rate, it is true.
Yellow Leaf Theatre was formed by actor/director//playwright Alan Meadows and actors Vanessa Rosenthal and Christopher Wilkinson after the latter two had performed Meadow's first play, The Two Ends of the Lands of the Living, at the North Derbyshire New Playwrights' Festival at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield. They felt it would be wrong to allow the play to die there and so Meadows wrote a second play for them, Face-Mail, and they formed Yellow Leaf Theatre to tour the two under the title Double Dutch.
Two Ends grew out of his experiences when his wife suffered a stroke and Face-Mail, as he says, gives "an outing to one or two of my favourite hobby-horses."
The programme was advertised - misleadingly, I think - as being by a company which produces plays dealing with the concerns of the over-fifties and, as a result, the audience was predominantly old. I, at 60, was one of the younger members!
Face-Mail, although giving an older slant on modern society, has something to say to all generations - especially the 30-somethings that are being satirised! - whilst Two Ends deals with something which can affect any generation: having to come to terms with the mental degeneration of a loved one.
The writing is a little diffuse at times, more so in Two Ends than in Face-Mail. Some tightening up is definitely needed as there are a few moments when everything goes a little flat, and the direction of Two Ends relied rather too heavily on the long pause, which tended to exacerbate the occasional flatness, but the characters were convincing and the emotional complexities well expressed. The performances were good and the extremely simple set (a maximum of five minutes for the get-in and get-out!) helped focus the attention on the meat of the piece.
An enjoyable and thought-provoking evening's theatre.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan