"High Quality Theatre Double Bill"
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 23/01/08

An intimate space with seating on three sides divided by individual pillars and a white wall behind the actors sets the stage for tonight's double bill of short plays- Terrors and Temp. And I mention the white wall behind the actors, not to focus on the wall, but on the two actors who are already present on stage and in character as we enter the auditorium. A man is writing in a book as a woman paces up and down. This is the beginning of the first short play- Terrors by Jack Williams. Not referring to real terrors, but to those little terrors we see coming home from school on weekday afternoons, otherwise known as children. Children may not be considered terrors to all of us but to the male lead character Dan they are. Particularly the ones outside who keep throwing stones. Dan doesn't want to start a family and would rather focus on his job. Jess on the other hand does, but when Dan refuses she feels a need to make her own fun, with another man.

Throughout the piece we glimpse back and forth between what is going on with Dan at work and Jess at home. Each scene is not merely divided by blackouts however. Varying transitional sequences showing what may have happened just after each scene and how the characters feel about their situations is dispersed evenly throughout through movement to very much create a work of art. And that is what this piece is. It is a work of art. From the sound design to the lighting to the movement direction by Robert Dingemans to the overall direction by Ewelina Kolaczek. It is extremely cohesive. Furthermore, it is brought to a completely new level with the flawless acting of all four cast members. All are equally talented in their own way. Ben Bela Boehm as Dan is a strong lead, and he is ably supported by the wonderful vocal power of Aisha Karr as Jess. Adding to this is the amazing stage authority provided by Ruth James in her scenes with Dan at work, and the naïve characterization of the other man provided by Marc Gordon.

Where Terrors fails though is in it's entertainment value. It is described as a "bittersweet comedy", yet fails to reveal any real humor until about midway through. It also doesn't really move the audience. It is very much for students or fans of acting technique. For without the truly professional performances of the actors the show would not be a success. And from an acting standpoint it is so much more than a success. If you're looking for a night of fun entertainment however, you may prefer to look elsewhere. My first suggestion would be the very next show- Temp.

As with Terrors, Temp by Dan James, has already begun as you re-enter the auditorium after the interval. Set inside an office, the arrival of a temp to sort out some Christmas cards, sets up a series of events to create a fast-paced comedy.

In trying not to give the plot away I will focus on the acting. It warrants a closer look since it is so much more diverse. We have a cast of well-trained actors well-directed by James Farrell who are succeeding based on how much energy they inject into their characters. The first person to succeed is female lead Nina Hatchwell as Maya. Her wonderfully fun portrayal delivers the much needed fun intended by the writer. The first minor lack of energy comes from Sue Broeberg as Ann- as the scene begins she is typing on a keyboard yet is not consistently hitting the keys that an office worker would need to hit when typing. A minor detail like this is something you could usually let slip, but within the confines of Barons Court Theatre where you are very much up close and personal with the actors, this kind of detail matters. Bringing the energy back up is Lynne Austin as she breezes in on stage as the typical common worker and Boss- Lesly. And to add to this flawless performance further, Austin brings every other actor around her up to her level, thus lifting the show to an overall higher level. The remaining role of Flakey Emma is portrayed by Laura King. The character could very much have been a throwaway performance but King has taken just the right amount of care to give a very apt performance.

Temp had the occasional fluffed line, and minor stage accidents that happen with live theatre but none of it prevented it being an entertaining and highly professional show. A pen accidentally fell on the floor for example, yet Austin picked it up at just the right time, unapologetically, to make the pen falling and subsequent picking it up, natural and a part of the show. Gotta love that Meisner Technique! It is these little instances that are great learning experiences for acting students as with Terrors, yet his time round we get the much needed entertainment value, and that is what makes Temp the most successful of the two plays. Despite the occasional nitpicky flaws with the show, I found them to be perfectly acceptable and a part of the performance, and that is what makes Temp a five-star show in it's own right. And it is thanks to the wonderful ensemble work of it's very talented cast.

Both Terrors and Temp were created based on First Draft Theatre's policy not to usually produce pre-conceived scripts and based on ideas very much generated by the cast and crew. This approach is a seemingly novel way to produce theatre, and hopefully Terrors, and in particular Temp are prime examples of how this can work.

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