3 Stars

Miniaturists 54 at the Arcola – 3 Stars

An evening’s entertainment comprised of five short plays by different writers is always going to somewhat resemble a packet of Revels – some you like, some less so and some you’re like: which vicious bastard disguised toffee for coffee and, more importantly, whose paying for my new dentures? I digress.

My point is that Miniaturists 54; Our Tenth Birthday can be likened to this confectionary experience as the show is, like Revels, a mixed bag.

twins

Opening with a clever but complex piece, James Fritz’s Twins combines an old woman’s nostalgic ramblings with a one woman soundscape of what seems to be the noises of medical complications; words like pump, contract and the odd scream. The effect is extremely unsettling when combined with the flickering fluorescent lights- reminiscent of a hospital, and the sporadic sounds of scratchy radio static.

It’s a welcome move from Twins to the simplicity of John O’Donovan’s If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You. The simple roof top setting as well as the minimal interruption from pre-recorded sound or fancy lighting means that the audience’s focus remains on the relationship developing on stage. This relationship, more nuanced than it first appears, reveals itself through O’Donovan’s careful language choices, pauses and the ability of both actors to fill in all the gaps between.

Cocaine

Checkout is an odd one. With a slightly obvious concept and an unremarkable moral message, this play walks a tightrope between funny and profound, wobbling toward each points but never quite coming down on either side…

Checkout

Up comes the lights for Damage Done featuring Karl Johnson from Hot Fuzz. It is easy, however, to rid oneself of the image of Johnson as an incoherent local cop once he and co-actor Sue Porrett launch into a stream of silence, perforated by occasional attempts at small talk or reminiscence, both of which culminate in confusion for the characters and amusement for the audience. We are quickly sobered, however, when the characters work themselves into an argument that reveals a sinister secret; perfectly embodying Owen McCaffery’s title: the damage is clearly done.

Finally Kampala, an illustration of several events in the history of Uganda. This play, made up of three different sections, feels somewhat disjointed and Stephen Jefferys’ language is eclipsed by the general lack of clarity surrounding the play’s purpose or objective, as well as the jump from section of section.

MinisMan-Image-300x277All in all this compilation of plays each has its own merit, and the performance was thoroughly enjoyable.

Happy birthday Miniaturists – here’s to ten more.

Harriet Bignell

Categories: 3 Stars, review

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