"Exciting new plays in Dalston"
by Coco Hall for remotegoat on 19/10/10

The Miniaturists is a great way to see lots of new plays in one evening. 'Just because something's small doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. Or experimental, or poignant or thought provoking.' (MusicOMH.com) Miniaturists 25 didn't disappoint, in an evening of short plays where the overall tone seemed to range from slightly to very dark, with an amazingly wide range of subject, tone and style for short pieces.

Better by Dan Muirden kicked off the evening and was the longest piece at around half an hour. A fully formed playlet with clear acts it was the most classical in form of the evening. A childless middle class couple steal a baby from their Chav neighbour. Though the performances were good and you warmed to the plummy couple, the play as a whole reinforced too many stereotypes without seeking a deeper truth. The play was structured elegantly and had a somewhat televisual feel.

Tomorrow/Seppuku by Kenneth Emson was the most exciting play of the evening in my opinion. Told entirely in the dark, a man and woman shelter in the dark from a savage (and presumably dystopian) future. The writing was subtle and lyrical, the fact that there were no visual clues really emphasized the power of the story as it built to its unexpected and dire crescendo. The audience were rapt in the dark, not one cough or checking of mobile to be heard or seen whilst the play was performed.

Dark Tourists by Laura Fitzgerald told the story of two sisters, one of whom becomes fascinated with seeing peoples' suffering. Told in a non-linear fashion, (with the aid of a very spooky voodoo doll,) something about the story did not hook me but the ideas and the delivery were good.

Skin by Sarah Grochala covered some important issues, but maybe here the form of the short play let her down. A Hampstead journalist is making a documentary about a Cambodian massacre but the locals are not keen to help. Well written and keenly structured with overlapping scenes, it seemed that the didactic message of the play overwhelmed it it times. However, with its relatively large cast, structure and ambition, it showed that short plays do not have to be about flimsy topics.

The final play of the evening was the delightful This night forward by Stephen Sharkey. A married couple who have died are reunited on the night of their first night together. Though there was necessarily a tad too much exposition to fill us in on the couple's long life together in a short space of time, it managed to be sweet, touching and funny, and a welcome lightening to the tone of the evening.

Performances and direction in all the plays was of a very high standard and the minimal but effective sets also added to the overall quality of the evening. Value for money and a great opportunity to see new writing.

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