10 January 2014

And Other Stories at the Orange Tree

And Other Stories was a once-off event at the Orange Tree Theatre in response to their production of Middlemarch. The Writers Collective had adapted short stories by some of George Eliot’s contemporaries and these were presented as early rehearsals with the actors reading from scripts and moving only a little.

This sounded rather like a writer's event that I went to last year and that was a lot of fun so I expected this to be too. And overall it was.

The Shadow by Amber Hsu and based on Hans Christian Andersen opened the evening.

A man who had lost his shadow (we learnt late how this happened) is surprisingly reunited with it only to find that the shadow has grown in stature and importance. The shadow is now greater than the man and he proposes a change of roles.

I liked the story but it was hard to imagine from the reading how it could be staged. The strength of the piece was the narrative and this worked well enough in prose.

Next was A Cross Line by Keely Winstone based on George Egerton.

This is where I should have taken notes as with four different stories to recall the memories of this one have dimmed. I member thinking that it was OK but the content has has gone so I cannot say anything about it.

The third piece was Cornered by Brian Mullin based on Henry James.

This was a ghost story, possibly. A man returns to his childhood home, now vacant, to refurbish it. He meets the next-door neighbour who used to babysit him. She troubles him a little.

Thanks to problems with the security alarm he is forced to stay in the house overnight and is disturbed by footsteps. He finally meets the intruder, but we do not. It was all neatly tense and mysterious.

The final work was The Knot by Amy Neilson Smith based on Edgar Allen Poe.

This was the most complete (i.e. longest) piece and was also the most successful, possibly because of its completeness. It was a proper play with a story and also more acting than the others we saw. A couple play a fantasy game where she is called Morella. They have some arguments but stay together and have a daughter called Morella. This is based on Poe and things do not end well.

I liked the evening a lot and I liked even more that the Orange Tree staged the event in the first place. I hope they do more of the same.

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