The Off Cut Festival is an
opportunity for new writers to showcase their work but it’s also an opportunity
for theatre audiences to participate in a way usually reserved for television
talent shows. 24 short plays by new writers are performed and the audience
decides which eight plays go through to the final. The official winner is
decided by a panel of experts, which this year includes playwright Moira
Buffini, director Nigel Douglas, novelist Robert Rigby and West End producer
Andrew William Robb.
The first of the six was
Welcome to Quiz Night. The premise is a quiz with no
participants and a quizmaster who insists on going ahead by forcing the only
man in the pub to compete. Writer John Moorhouse creates a good comic
situation, but seems to find it difficult to expand on.
We are told that Chantelle
Claire-Walsh’s The Teacher Who Loved Me is "a surreal
self-affirming drama about a girl’s affinity for a distinguished teacher"
and this description turns out to be useful because otherwise the point of the
production might be lost. Apart from that taken straight from Shakespeare, the
dialogue is terrible and the play is made up of a quick succession of scenes so
short they lack substance. The relationship between the teacher and the pupil is
strange and irritating.
This Just In,
written and directed by Darren Murphy, is an intelligent comment on media hype
and manipulation. The characters, a newsreader and a reporter repeat themselves
constantly. At first amusing - similar in tone to Chris Morris’s The
Day Today - the play gradually becomes an illustration of how
different panics occur in society, the problems with 24-hour news and the moral
responsibility of the media. The acting, by Denise Stephenson and Tim Lewis, is
superbly convincing and the whole production is slick and
A bugaboo is "an object of
obsessive, usually exaggerated, fear or anxiety", and at first it seems an
incongruous title for Christine Roberts’ play. Bugaboo
initially appears to be the tale of a young man who lives with his amusingly
dull and gossiping parents right but as it goes on the play darkens. The
relationship between the son and his parents becomes claustrophobically close
until a final twist reveals that all is not what it seems.
The Curse of Elizabeth
Faulkner is an old-fashioned comedy written by Tim Downie. This is a
world where witches put curses on people and secretaries wear short skirts and
it’s good fun - a word you certainly couldn’t use for any of the other plays
being performed the night I attended Off Cut. There are too
many unnecessary characters in Downie’s play and the storyline and humour are
quite basic but it gets laughs and there’s much to said for that.
by Louise Gooding, is set in a future world where the power has gone out. There
are three characters, none of whom are particularly likeable. Gooding excels at
grit and this is no exception. There is good urban dialogue and high drama, but
the plot is confusing and it feels more like a scene within a whole rather than
a self-contained work.