The petite and friendly new writing workshop that is Theatre503 has partnered with Menagerie's Hotbed Festival to bring us not only Steve Waters' new play Why Can't We Live Together? but two new short plays, Somniloquy and How To Begin. It's a fast and furious (in the most part) evening that will see you out by 9.30pm – a joy for any semi-regular theatregoer.
At first Waters' piece, which focuses on the game-changing (and some of the not so special) moments that make and break a relationship, seems a little obvious and a touch too middle-class, but the acting from Jasmine Hyde and Mark Oosterveen really brings the poignancy of some of the writing home, while their comic timing plays well with the humorous moments ("my school was a hole, but we had better wall displays than that!").
Designed so that a range of objects at the side of the stage are used to represent particular moments in their lives, we see everything from 'a proposal' to 'playtime' and 'a disenchantment'. Waters' skill here is focusing in on the little moments – "you'll get there," says Oosterveen, insensitive to his partner's issues with breastfeeding their baby. We should have known it wouldn't end well from that.
The two post-interval monologues are drawn from Hotbed's What's Up Doc series, with plays created in response to a question or challenge from a ‘doctor' (actually classified as a ‘Thought Leader') in their field.
It's a pity that Hisham Matar's How To Begin ends the night, because it's 20 minutes of dreariness. Despite Oosterveen's best efforts (and he really does try), he can't fix the biggest problem: bad material. The narrator circles around questions and you simply don't care about any of what he's saying. In the programme, Matar says that collaborator Dr Devorah Baum (a lecturer in English Literature and Critical Theory) "is one of the most elegant minds I know". That's all well and good, but by creating a monologue around the inability to know oneself, you essentially ostracise the audience until they start thinking about hometime.
However, and it's a big however, the best piece of the night is on just before this – Craig Baxter's Somniloquy, taking us through a night of fragmented sleep for super-stressed Nyxie, who's being monitored to see what happens. Performer Hyde lies (well, stands) in a hospital bed on end, in a cunning design by Nicky Bunch. This really is a lot of fun. Whether performing terrifying impressions of Bruce Forsyth, winning The Great British Bake Off or rambling about dragging "on a backwards penis", Hyde is completely committed to this brilliantly twisty piece. It's funny, it's thought-provoking and it's worth the price of admission alone.