17 March 2014

Theatre In The Pound at The Cockpit (March 2014)

My second visit to Theatre in The Pound at The Cockpit was for the same reason as my first in January, and that was because of my loose connection to Eva Gray and Rob Groves. Eva was acting in one of the pieces again and this time it was in something co-written by Rob.

I've still not quite worked out the best way to get to The Cockpit from the tube (I got lost again!) but I managed to get there comfortably before the 7pm kick-off with time to get my first bottle of Budvar for the evening.

The Cockpit was laid out as before, with seating on three sides, and I headed for the front-row in the middle of the far side, just for a change.

First up were Rob and Eva in excerpts from Espionage, a full-length play. This was a teaser to show us the structure of the play, some of the characters and their approach to humour.

We soon learnt that the humour was groan inducing puns, like the should-have-seen-it-coming build up to the punchline "trifle bazaar". There was also a scene where the dialogue seemed to be composed mostly of lines from chocolate sweets adverts, "only the crumbliest, flakiest", etc. Seeing fragments of the play made it difficult to see what the full play would be like but having seen The Unrest Cure from the same stable I was confident that it would be hugely entertaining once completed.

Next up was The Dotty Bride, the first scene in an emerging play. It started with a woman hoovering in a flat. The problem was that she was meant to be at a wedding. Her wedding. She was soon joined by her best friend and bridesmaid who while trying to find out why the bride had fled at the last moment also offered a sympathetic ear. After a little while another bridesmaid arrived. She had planned that day and was busy rearranging things in a very organised way with no interest in the bride's feelings. Others arrived too.

In the open session after the reading we were told that the full play had been mapped out but we were not told whether the bride returned to her wedding or not. I did not want to know either.

I asked my first of several question about this play. The part of it that we saw had five very convincing female characters yet it was written by a man, Kenneth O' Toole. He explained that men do appear later on and that there had been input from the case too.

The third piece was a performance for children (Key Stages 1 and 2) called Geometric City. It was a very active performance with lots of movement and sounds from the two women as they undertook their mysterious journey.

It reminded me a little of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, but somebody else made that comment before I could. It may have been theatre for children but it kept a room full of adults entertained.

During the interval was when the fun really started and I made a determined effort to speak to some of the creatives about what I had seen.

I also managed to grab a minute with organiser and compère Theresa Brockway, pictured here. She impressed me with the questions that she asked and of her knowledge of theatres in Lyme Regis, and I wanted to tell her that.

I also spent a bit of time with one of the bridesmaids and with the children's theatre group.

The second half opened with Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair. This struggled to gain traction because of the unfamiliar subject matter, a Slovenian folk story about monsters called Dogheads, and the unclear delivery of the woman. The beast in the cage was good though.

In the talk afterwards we discovered that this was more an exercise in the author trying to find something about her past for herself rather than as an entertainment for others. And that was fine, Theatre in The Pound was an open stage.

The final piece was also the only complete one. A Balcony in Verona, by Eddie Saint-Jean, was set, obviously, on the roof of a tower block in the East End. There we found a woman in her late thirties approaching some sort of mid-life crisis without much understanding from her husband who was kept busy trying to earn a living wage.

Verona was where she wanted to be, the East End was where she was.

In the end the husband made (an expensive) gesture that resolved the situation.

Then it was back in the bar for a final Budvar and a lot more talking. Apart from Eva and Rob who got me there, I spent most of the time talking to Eddie Saint-Jean about A Balcony, especially it's ending. I had made a comment about that during the open session.

I flit like a moth around the remaining people to make sure that I got to praise as many of the people involved as I could and to explain why I liked what they had done. It was gone 10:30 and the bar had shut before I finally ventured out to try and find Edgware Road Station.

Having dipped my toe in to Theatre in The Pound twice, and liked what I found there both times, I have now put future dates in my calendar. That is not a promise but it's certainly an aspiration. As somebody who likes to see challenging theatre and who would like to understand it better, Theatre in The Pound is remarkable opportunity for me to do both.

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