Before I formally start this review I want to make one thing really clear: this is an excellent show and everyone should go. Tremendous value for money – one hour of near-flawless comedy. I will be telling the writing groups I am a member of, to go plus any and everyone else.
OK – that said, the show is not without its flaws, its elements of unease.
The Soiree consists of six pieces of work varying in quality of writing but all with a high level of acting performance.
The first piece is entitled ‘Tangled Net’ and stars Philip Dunn (Only Free Men, Rosencrantz and Guildernstern), Kate Willis (Confusions, Sketchy at Best) and Clive Wedderburn (ITV’s The Bill). The playlette concerns the transmission of emails from and to various parties as a suitor (Philip) tries to woo Kate by sending emails. Unfortunately her Father (Clive) becomes involved – to much hilarity and confusion all round. Excellent use of the typewriter – and the whole storyline makes sense. I was surprised, though, that there were no jokes built round cc, bcc, worms, spellings, smileys or ambiguity in emails.
The second piece is Celebrity and stars Hannah Brain (Games we Play, Intimate Encounters). Hannah plays someone who is seeking to be a CELEBRITY and becomes more and more hysterical as the play progresses. Each section of the play lasts for just a few minutes. Hannah rushes off stage and reappears in between the other plays. In this way she knits the evening together. In addition it allows the movement of props for the next play – but this movement is seen as part of ‘Celebrity’. During the play Hannah asks who remembers the first winner of Big Brother. It was Craig Phillips who then gave his winnings away. Given Hannah’s background in Psychology, care and social work, it is surprising the character made no reference to this. Equally surprising was the missed opportunity of humour aimed at Kinga and her use of a wine bottle (BB6)
The third piece is entitled ‘The Train Stops Here’ and stars Clive Wedderburn, Lewis Reid (Lewis, Up and Under) and Steve Coulson (My Mate Fancies you, Something Gnawing at Me). Lewis is a suicide bomber. Some neat lines ‘posthumous death’ and use of the mobile phone but, I felt, having introduced Islam, Christianity and God into the play why not have more jokes aimed at these faiths. If this is politically incorrect then why not have a ‘super being’ and an unidentified religion/faith’ allowing jokes aimed at the fake religion’s beliefs – and the Superbeing could also have a beard. It seemed to me that this playlette brought in some reality and then ignored it.
The fourth piece is ‘Tell Someone Who Cares’ and stars Kate Willis and Lucy Turner (Funny as a Crutch). The play concerns two people who say one thing to each other but actually think something different – which they share with the audience. This has been done in Oxford by another group (Playbites at the Oxford Playhouse). Nonetheless, the script is excellent, fast, witty – and the actors (especially Kate) show their versatility.
The fifth piece is Cake on a Plate and stars Kirrily Long (Noises Off, The Furtive Fortunes of Fickle Fate). Kirrily is the sole actor in this piece. She plays the role of a teacher dealing with a less-than-attentive class. As a teacher, this, for me, was the best of the playlettes. Joyce Grenfell updated! Very realistic – at one point Kirrily eyeballed me and told me to take off my headphones. I did a double-check…This monologue was really, really good and all credit to the writer Gina Schien as well as the actor.
The final piece is ‘Nice People’ starring Clive Wedderburn and Lucy Turner. The play concerns a bank robber (Lucy) who is madly in love with someone she took hostage (Clive) . I felt this would have gained if there had been a flashback to show the robbery, perhaps lasting a minute. This to be shown on a separate part of the stage. Also the photo opportunity could have been a photo for the prison mug shot.
One final point in this long review.
The ticket price. £8 is excellent value for money BUT if you buy online then the price can be £12.65 which is disgraceful. However, there is the option to avoid this fee by booking in person at the OFS or New Theatre Box Offices, or by calling the OFS Studio direct on 0844 844 0662.
As said at the beginning, this is a fantastic production with wonderful actors, fast, well-timed delivery. Go see it!