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Cast Iron Theatre’s ‘Six and a Bit Plays’: Review

By: Sydney Jennett

On a side of Brighton few students go, though a mere twenty minute walk from the clubs of Old Steine, is a small pub and B&B, named the Iron Duke. Inside, although feeling vaguely reminiscent of a theatre bar, I felt as lost as the night before (having intended to write this review on Friday). However, along a corridor in the back, I arrived in a small black box theatre, unremarkble in design or size, with a stage no larger than four by ten feet, just in time for the entertainment to start.

Our host, and Artistic Director, Andrew Allen, began the evening in an informal spiele, explaining tonight six short plays and an unrehearsed, recently submitted and profoundly rough five minute short were to be performed. His showmanship resounded with us, frequently breaking the fourth wall in humorous jokes (specifically his “it’s not pantomime season yet” met by the audience response “oh yes it is”) though still remaining informative of the coming show.

The first Rapid Response’ Play was a political philosophy debate wrapped up in a friendly discussion of a new fiver stuck to a plinth in Trafalgar. Although the delivery was stilted and unrehearsed, the subject was interesting, gearing us for the thought provoking evening ahead.

Abruptly, the bit ended, a resounding applause from the packed out theatre masked the restaging process. A woman dressed as a refugee, Chelsea Newton Mountney, entered the stage, sat down, and fearfully checked her passport. Shonali Rodrigues entered with more confidence but a subtle angst, and the play looked at a thought provoking parallel of a post-epidemic Britain with the current refugee crises. The shocking conclusion of murder and theft resolved the play, signalling that fear drives even good people to such extremes. Tide by Michelle Donkin was a thought-provoking introduction into this new genre.

A Piece of Work by A.N. Other, staring our host Andrew Allen, began with a humorous tone, typical of his raconteur introduction, he is fumbling with the sound desk. However, as he begins his Hamlet monologue, we quickly find the heart of his story. He is confronted by a ghost, more a remembrance of a past colleague, whom Allen’s character lets slip he has murdered. A insight into the mind of an actor rehearsing, more a comment on nervousness than murder, A Piece of Work was entertaining and interesting.

The act finished with Sophie Anna Swithinbanks’ humorous response to conception in Biology Lesson. Characterising Heather-Rose Andrews as the lonely egg, X, and Matt Mulvay as the spunky sperm, Y, they told a tale of romance between the most unlikely pair of likely partners. X and Y bounced off each other with a good rapport and the jokes kept coming. Though comedic, the piece conceived in our minds the thoughts of such familiar lessons in our Sex Ed classes at school.

The second act began with a touching story of an old lady’s meeting with two young women in a karaoke booth. The former, Judith Greenfield, explains life as she sees it to these young girls in a feminine way, her stories revolving around an old, recently dead friend, likening herself to the two girls, Judey Bignell and Emma Ruggins. A heart warming story of friendship, ageing and the female spirit, Andrew Allen’s direction really let these actors shine.

Trig Point by Andrew Croucher brought us away from the warm booth and up to a frigid mountain peak, set ten minutes after a man has suffered a diabetic coma. Although we see Rich Foyster as the uncapable party, Matt Swan as the nurse, the action revereses, the situation was engineered by Swan due to Facebook like jealousy. Ultimately the real friends are united, at the expense of the dead facebook friend. Running between jokes on friendship and messages questioning what friendship is their humour had us in stitches.

Lastly, Four Minutes bookmarked the night, an angry play contemplating the rise of fascist nations betraying poor undefended Britain in 2020. Starring Alix Cavanagh, Ramesh Nair, Annie Packman, and James Macauley, Four Minutes explored the political alongside the personal in a play that left a bitter taste in our mouths on the rise of “madmen”.

An evening of humour and some poilitcs thrown in, Andrew Allen’s constructing of a new experimental genre of theatre was a success. The plays touched me as an actor, and the experimental nature leads me to believe the show is a show for actors. Moroever, Allen is looking for writers, actors and directors of any experience to contribute to the Cast Iron IX, with information on facebook. The acting was of good standard in general and the evening was thought-provoking, innovative and fun.

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