Friday, 18 January 2013

Encompass Productions presents: Bare Essentials III: The Emerging Artists Showcase

Written by: Kirstie Ralph (@kjralph)

Press Play House, London

An enigmatic variety show is the latest instalment of Encompass Productions’ Bare Essentials trilogy. The Press Play House provided an ideal location for the “emerging artist showcase”, with its blank open space design and informal atmosphere.

Firstly we were treated to the poetry of Toby Wheeler. His best poem out of three was Don’t Look at Pretty Boys, Look at Me. For a few amusing yet slightly uncomfortable minutes, every woman in the room cringed at her catalogue of ex-boyfriends and the “nice guys” in our lives, which we complain to regularly. There were several self-pitying male faces in the audience too.

Encompass Productions’ own film premier Stormin’ Norman was a highlight, featuring a homeless everyday “routine” in East Ham. For a low budget film the acting was good and the right balance between drama and comedy was struck. The piece was designed to counteract the belief that “homeless isn’t good for business”, after Norman is turned out by an unfeeling café owner. The film was heartfelt; hence the plight of London’s homeless resonated on the tube home afterwards.

Emerging playwright Emma Minihan’s The Sofa was by far my personal favourite. The piece caricatured a young couple, who are in a comatose state in front of the television. Freya Parsons and Owen Collins, whose animated faces are speckled with dust, give the static scene a vibrant energy. The pair’s physicality during the characters attempt to put on shoes to “climb Mount Everest” was hilarious. The aim of the piece to satire everyone’s guilt of this practice was fulfilled.

The preview of Pamela Carralero’s Who is Moloch? came next. The scene staged an underground bunker in which a dozen World War III soldiers attempt to recreate A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The bizarre nature of the extract was intended, and therefore we are left unsure of the overriding question of the title. The acting was strong and the use of lighting and silhouette was effectively simplistic.

The second half was less impressive, on par with the impact of the inept and unrehearsed compère. Life and Exhumations was a self-confessed ‘serious’ piece made slightly dull. One of the actors had a notebook from which to read his lines, which made a lot of the dialogue between the two characters stunted. Lie Back and Think of America by Natalie Penn was a woman’s recollection of her childhood before evacuation. Overall the piece was a little cliché providing nothing recognisably original.

The stand out piece of the night was In Working Progress by the Wind-Up Collective, which redeemed the second half somewhat. The piece was instantly comical in its shameful quest to involve the audience in their modern pantomime. The caricaturing was effective, especially the half-wife-half-husband character, hosting a dinner party. The piece was lively and engaging, and therefore the audience participation was not awkward. Being straddled by the Big Bad Wolf, an out of work cabaret singer in a feather boa, was pretty surreal. 

This production has closed. 

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