13 July 2012

Directors' Showcase at the Orange Tree

As usual, the Orange Tree Theatre's season ended with a showcase of works by new directors.

In previous years we have had two plays but this year we had three which got increasingly dark.

First up was the short comedy The Burglar Who Failed. A precocious teenage girl goes to bed only to confront a burglar who had been hiding under her bed.

She easily overpowers him physically and mentally, with the help of her hockey stick, and challenges him on his choice of career. His reasons for adopting a life of crime fall apart under her questioning and somehow he is convinced to apply for a job as a footman that the girl knows is available.

The humour comes from the girl's strength and the burglar's weakness and that makes for a jolly little piece.

The second play was a dark response using a similar situation but with a different outcome.

The young girl is in power but the victim is not a burglar but a respectable couple and she is the one who has broken in. She has also used violence and threatens more.

Menace is spread across the play like jam across a sandwich. Menace is the play.

This girl is also in complete control but rather than helping the couple she torments them with a succession of suggestions that she knows things about them, such as an affair the husband has had.

And that's how it goes. No story as such, just a hint of lots of stories, and the menace to make them all believable.

After the break we moved back to early sixties America when black people were still n#####s and the world was even less safe for them than it is today.

A chance meeting on a commuter train swings violently between passion and, er, violence.

They flirt, she suggests that they go to a party, he's interested, she changes mood and becomes aggressive for a while, then starts flirting again.

In the end he's a black man in a world where black people are not even second-class citizens and he pays the price for that.

It's intense, harrowing and kicks you just where a good play should kick you.

The Directors' Showcase usually features plays that are provocative and challenging. Plays just like these. Plays that I like.

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