Monday, November 12, 2018

Brewing - an early glimpse of three new works in development #outburst18

Over the years, the Outburst Queer Arts Festival has become for a test bed for new work from creatives. Yesterday afternoon, the Black Box audience settled down for a couple of hours of Brewing, three very different works from well-established writers.

The rehearsed reading of Amanda Verlaque’s The Party imagined a small independent figure with cross-community working class backing emerging from the Northern Ireland political fray to fight a by-election caused by the resignation of a homophobic and ultimately hypocritical politician. Wily Gareth (Tony Flynn) has gone over the head of his calculating wife Heather (Jo Donnelly) to hire flamboyant media spin doctor Jo (Maria Connolly) to advise his campaign. The Party has a very televisual timeline – jumping backwards before returning to the first scene and moving on – and enjoys sharp dialogue, recognisable political traits, and the kind of Sunday newspaper shenanigans that should light up the eyes of theatre producers and maybe even radio or television commissioners.

While they seek to be unusually candid when speaking to the public, as the layers of their youthful actions, past relations and lazy eyes are peeled back, it reveals a more complex and difficult relationship with the truth that the watching media will surely leap on in the remaining yet-to-be-written scenes

Stacey Gregg’s Hatchet Jinny is a mixed-media memoir, exploring her own identity by starting with her no-nonsense grandmother who had a perchance for breaking apart furniture when her patience was tried. It’s illustrated with recordings of interviews with family members, childhood photographs, quotes from philosopher Didier Eribon and projections of hard-learned principles for life. At first it all feels haphazard, but it quickly gels as Gregg’s self-awareness and generous sharing develops into a comfortable style of performance that is warm, open but never too judgemental on her closest family. It’s a strong enough start to surely expect Hatchet Jinny to be entertaining Edinburgh audiences next summer.

Last up was a rehearsed reading from a selection of scenes of Dominic Montague’s Glass Houses. Ben (Neil Keery) is a young gay GP who from time-to-time uses smart phone apps to hook up with local guys. Rex (Paddy Buchanan), a handsome chap with good teeth, grabs his attention more than once. But is he too good to be true? Gavin Pedan adds a shy and socially awkward housemate Greg to the mix. The riffs about self-diagnosing patients, status anxiety, Tinder coaches and LGBT9er work well, and Caroline Curran’s character creates dramatic tension and adds much-needed colour to this early version of a piece which is still in development and hasn’t found its final shape. The sharp interface between online and offline is definitely worth examining and I hope to get a second date with Glass Houses in the future.

Outburst festival continues until 17 November.

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