International Playwriting Festival 2012


Warehouse Theatre, Croydon

The Warehouse Theatre's International Playwriting Festival—it is the 26th this year—attracts entries from all around the world. As well as a selection from the best of the competing entries it includes contributions from its partner theatres in Italy and Cyprus, a representative piece chosen from the BRIT School's Strawberry Picking season and plays from the Warehouse's own Writers Workshop.

The plays, some of them short self-contained pieces, some snapshot extracts to give a taste of a writer's work and some half hour extracts from full length submissions were presented in staged readings with a team of actors and guest directors over two evenings.

The first programme kicked off with an intriguing piece from South Africa, ended with one from New York and as well as local contributions included a complete short play by first time dramatist Anna Marangou, an archaeologist from Famagusta which was presented by Theatro Ena from Cyprus.

Who did You Say You Were by Giles Scott, from which we got a "snapshot", was the South African entry. It presents a group of people gathered at a guest house for a murder mystery weekend. It shows a light comic touch in the confusion of people told to be someone else an awareness of how bad jokes can be funny and what looks like a strong role for the hostess / organiser in a tale which begins with the male of a pair of (real) detective lovers seeing a body visible only to him and the audience: the ghost of a real-life murder victim.

Riots by Chandrika Patel, a local Croydon writer, is a short monologue in which an elderly widower owns up to a personal incident in last year's riots while remembering his dead wife on the anniversary of her birthday. Despite a slightly mawkish ending it was touchingly delivered by Derek Wright.

Two Hours by Anna Marangou was sparked off by an overheard in-flight conversation. A flight delay prompts an agitated wife whose husband displays no concern whatever into an outpouring of complaint about his failure to contribute to their relationship. Andreas Christodoulides (artistic director of Theatro Ena) and Alexia Paraskeva performed it in a mixture of Greek and English to great effect.

Sakura by Talicia Hall was the BRIT School production, written, directed and acted by its students. An ambitious look at both AIDS and adoption in an African family it did them credit in tackling difficult material but needed more clarity and projection to be as effective as it could be.

A Touch or Ragnarok by Ivan Gillett (another Writer's Workshop member) presents a television newswoman reporting from the Namibian desert after a strange unexplained event that is having peculiar effects: "Ragnarok" is the Viking equivalent of Apocalypse, though I don't think the Vikings come into it. It comically presents a series of live reporting slots in which for a local expert makes various fatuous comments to hide the fact they have no idea what is going on. Stephanie Brigg and Ben Onwukwe played it with satiric bite.

The Tie That Binds by New Yorker Rebecca Sue Haber, which ended the first programme, presents a Jewish couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary at a rented condo at a Maine resort along with their son and daughter and their partners. The half hour presented showed an increasingly embarrassing dinner party in which alcohol turns bickering into savage accusations, from the women especially, about what is wrong with their relationships. It's very funny but, with topics including addiction, bisexuality and dealing with illness, the play seems to have an underlying seriousness. Anna Savva was particularly strong (and funny) as the mother fighting cancer.

Six more plays, or extracts from them will be presented in the Festival's second programme. Meanwhile entries are already being accepted for next year's Festival, for which the closing date is 31 July 2012. The Festival will take place on 9/10 March 2013. For further details and entry forms go to www.warehousetheatre.co.uk/ipf13.html.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton