Theatre Review – The We Plays

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The We Plays are two one-person, one-act plays both written by Andrew Maddock.  On at The Hope Theatre until the 15th October. Both plays touch on similar themes of anxiety, loneliness, starting a family and violence, and both are told with an element of spoken word poetry.  

theatre-review-cartoon-kilt-scottish-female-male-cypriot-beach-grassThe first, Cyprus Sunsets, follows the character, Me (played by John Seaward), as he desperately tries to claw back something of his previous annual Cyprus holidays of clubbing, drugs and sex.  It is in Cyprus, that he says his life began at the age of 17 and where he met his “La Isla Bonita”.

At first he seems like a sad ex ‘rugger bugger’ trying to reclaim his youth.  However, with each Cypriot Sunset that he longingly tries to capture, and each time misses, we realise that his sadness is a lot deeper and it is not his youth that he has lost, but his future family.  John Seaward expertly manages to convey Me’s underlying sense of angst as he tries to grasp a few days of solace.

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As the story progresses, we warm to the character.  He is gradually revealed to be much more than the shallow, arrogant character he initially seemed to be.  Me has a similar change of heart with the “Fertility Family”, as he goes from shear annoyance at their very presence to being eternally thankful that they’re there.  His laddish exterior melts as he goes through a relatable catharsis.  John Seaward is brilliantly convincing, playing both the defensive, laddish exterior and the vulnerable, despairing interior, with complete conviction.  Seaward’s acting, Maddock’s wording and Turner’s lighting, all contribute to create a real sense of the holiday destination.  theatre-review-cartoon-kilt-scottish-female-male-cypriot-beach-grassThe only props, a suitcase and strap, are cleverly used to represent not only various pieces of furniture, but the character’s metaphorical baggage that he carries on his back to and from his place of escape.

The second play, Irn Pru, follows the self-acclaimed hard as nails, Glaswegian, Pru, as she finds herself an unemployed victim of the gentrification of her home town.  Jennifer O’Neill is well cast as Pru, an interesting character who, like Me, is battling against anxiety caused by an incident from her recent past.  However, where Me is trying to escape from life, Pru is fighting for it and facing it head on.  After her traumatic experience she could have taken the all too easy option of identifying herself as a victim.  Yet, despite moments of weakness, she continues to “push it” with the help of her fellow Glaswegian, entrepreneur idol, Michelle Mone, and she refuses to let herself be victimised.  Irn Pru sets off to a strong start, but unfortunately the play is over just as it is getting going and we don’t go through the same breadth of journey as we do with Cyprus Sunsets (perhaps due to Irn Pru’s shorter length).  Consequently, we didn’t delve as deeply into Pru’s psyche.

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theatre-review-cartoon-kilt-scottish-female-male-cypriot-beach-grass-cyprus-sunsets-the-we-plays-2-minBetween the two plays, the similarities in theme and character, and the contrasts in location and the characters’ choices, compliment each other nicely. Andrew Maddock’s use of rhyming, word play and rhythm is well crafted, fitting subtly and naturally into the dialogue without feeling at all forced. He builds the characters up skillfully, giving us enough information at the beginning to let us know that there is an underlying tension building. When he does reveal the events that both characters are fighting to deal with, they are touched on lightly enough to let the audience fill in the blanks themselves, ignoring the temptation to delve into a self-indulgent detailed description. Maddock chooses instead to focus on how the characters are dealing with the aftermath in the present moment, making the play much more relevant, relatable and realistic, and demonstrating his skill as a playwright.

Both plays are poignant and thought-provoking studies of the vulnerable core of two seemingly cocksure characters.  The We Plays is a strong, enjoyable and poignant piece of fringe Theatre.

By

Hannah Chalmers

www.hannahchalmers.com