"Lunchtime theatre has good menu"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 31/03/14

This is such a good idea it’s surprising no one has thought of it before. Theatre for the lunchtime business crowd, courtesy of White Room Theatre’s Bite-Size Plays. The group have a strong track record of producing short plays at Edinburgh and other fringe festivals, and now they’ve brought a line up of four ten-minute plays to the St James Studio, a short walk from Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace.

Presented as a menu, the starter is Nice People by Gareth Brierly. It begins as an almost ‘When Harry Met Sally’ style talking head with a sweet sounding couple recounting how they met. There is nothing I can say about what happens next without completely spoiling the surprise and giving the game away, so all I’ll say is that the twist and the play are both clever and funny. Miles Mlambo and Tegen Hitchens as the young couple both have superb delivery, making this the ideal starter.

The main course is Cake on a Plate by Gina Schien, a monologue with Nicole Ollivere playing a teacher in charge of a slightly unruly class with one pupil in particular causing her problems. It’s less inventive than the other courses but still has enough good lines to fill ten minutes without dragging.

Dessert is Tell Someone Who Cares by Sarah Browne. Set in a coffee bar where two friends are having their regular weekly meet up, both characters break the fourth wall and reveal their inner thoughts to the audience. This adds an extra dimension to the conversation and elevates it above the mundane as the actors reveal what they think of each other, and what is really going on in their own lives. Hitchens and Louise Fairbrother feed off each other excellently as the two friends, helped by a clever script with some great lines, particularly a reference to The Only Ways is Essex, and even the names of the characters adds to the comedy.

Coffee is Undress Me Clarence by Doug Grissom. Rather than being the take it or leave it last course this is actually the strongest play as Alexander Hathaway as Clarence is instructed by Cassandra Foster, playing his wife, to imagine he is undressing her and talk about what he is doing. From rebuking him for skipping several key moments of the process, to chastising him for his choice of imagined underwear colour, and complaining about inconsistencies in his account, Foster gets little pleasure from Clarence’s account, and Clarence himself is wonderfully disinterested in the process, sounding like it is an obligation he takes no pleasure in. The deadpan delivery of a very funny script makes it funnier still and a great end to the overall production.

At less than ten minutes each the plays provide a perfect lunchtime accompaniment. Light and entertaining, humorous and well observed, it’s a great way to break up a day’s work, and far more entertaining than most other things you could do on a lunchtime in Victoria.

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