7 July 2011

Directors Showcase at The Orange Tree

As is now the tradition, the Orange Tree Theatre ends its season with two short plays that showcase the skills of new directors. And is also the tradition, these plays are some of the most challenging that the theatre put on.

First up was Then the Snow Came, adapted and directed by Jimmy Grimes. This was inspired by, and incorporated parts of, The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde but set amongst the homeless of today's Richmond.

Here we meet Stuart and Mickey. Stuart is new to homelessness having come out of the Army and Mickey has been on the streets for some years following the breakup of his marriage and a drinking problem. Typical stories and, no doubt, chosen for that reason.

Mickey gets a letter to say that his ex-wife is ill and tries to get the money to make the trip home to the North East. Stuart has dreams of a place in a hostel and some sort of job.

But this is the world of the unemployed and things are not easy.

We follow Mickey and Stuart for a couple of days and learn a lot more about them and their lifestyle as we do so. It's a gripping and harrowing picture of life on the edge of society that reminds us that people still live like that and they are still people.

In contrast, Winter by Jon Fosse (Norway) and directed by Teunkie Van der Sluijs is almost a love story. Almost. With lots of swearing.

A businessman in another town for a meeting meets a girl in a park who wants to talk to him. He wants to get away but cannot. After they go back to his hotel she tries to get away from him but cannot.

He is a married man with children and a steady job and she is damaged goods.

There is no great passion in their relationship but there is a strong compulsion and the business man ends up pleading with the girl to go away with him.

The story is simple but the motives and emotions are anything but, and it is that drama that draws us through the play. And that's a rough journey but I loved it.

I found the second of the two play the more interesting but it was clear from the audience reaction that some were uncomfortable with the very strong language used, possibly unnecessarily.

These were two difficult plays tackling difficult subjects and that made them the more rewarding and a welcome change of pace from the farces that were on before.

It's a bold decision for the Orange Tree to put on plays like this and they have my warmest thanks for doing so. This is real in-your-face theatre doing what only theatre can.

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