by Jimmy Osborne, Isabel Wright, Kate Brower, Claudine Toutoungi.
Stephen Joseph Theatre (McCarthy auditorium) Westborough YO11 1JW In rep to 30 August 2014.
2.45pm 13, 30 Aug.
7.15pm 21, 28 Aug.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.
Life’s loneliness and fears in front of the big screen.
These new plays, capably directed by Henry Bell, are built around the Stephen Joseph’s half-century as an Odeon cinema. Four new writers each depict a night at the pictures, from the grand 1938 opening, through notable screenings to a postlude where two young women watch for their moment of onscreen glory as extras in locally filmed Little Voice.
There are just a handful of cinema seats on the McCarthy stage, though Paul Stear’s colourful video images help disguise that the programme consists almost entirely of duologues in the semi-dark. The plays, seen individually (dates below), or together have a cumulative impact from their different authors. In four eras, characters’ individual lives in the flickering dark cover a variety among collective humanity.
1938’s opening, setting for Jimmy Osborne’s An Empty Seat, was ‘The Ghost Goes West’, its American materialism offset by the wartime reputation haunting wealthy a Scarborough businessman, which makes even an usherette unwilling to talk to him.
The most sinister piece, Isabel Wright’s The Illicit Dark, is linked to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, evoking Hitchcock’s intrigue, and the malevolent 1950s world of Georges Franju’s Eyes Without A Face and hints of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques.
It’s no surprise the more recent settings focus more on character than plot; modern characters are more accessible. Claudine Toutoungi shows two locals whose friendship is tested when one realises how little the voice of an extra is. The end’s too neat, but the conversation develops as a natural response to the screening.
Kate Brower uses a notable 1973 double-feature, Nicholas Roeg’s deeply-textured Daphne du Maurier adaptation Don’t Look Now, released with B-movie turned instant cult classic The Wicker Man.
We have to accept the unlikelihood a cinema management would allow two customers to stay talking after the midnight matinee, but Brower gives individuality to the older Richie, fazed by the films as by his wife’s behaviour, and shows in Diana a woman brought up with one set of expectations but aware of new possibilities opening-up for intelligent women. Sharply characterised and true to its setting, Double Feature deserves a wider release.
An Empty Seat
by Jimmy Osborne.
(16, 25 Aug 1.15pm; 5pm 22 Aug).
Henry: Paul Ryan.
Mae: Lara Stubbs.
The Illicit Dark
by Isabel Wright.
(16, 19, 26 Aug 5pm).
Jeanne: Charlotte Harwood.
Charles: Paul Ryan.
Susan: Lara Stubbs.
by Kate Brower.
(16 Aug 8.15pm, 19, 29 Aug 1.15pm).
Diana: Charlotte Haywood.
Richie: Paul Ryan.
by Claudine Toutoungi.
(16 Aug 12pm, 22 Aug 1.15pm, 29 Aug 5pm).
Julie: Charlotte Harwood.
Martine: Lara Stubbs.
Director: Henry Bell.
Designer: Lucy Weller.
Lighting: Tigger Johnson.
Sound/Video: Paul Stear.