If you had only 10 minutes to save the world, what would you do?
Well in May this year, Live Theatre put out a call to ask writers to do just that. Save the world. Or at least, create a world in which something needed saving. They then selected the five writers and directors who would be teaming up for the performance in July.
Live put the five successful super heroic writers in a room with five directors of hope, and set them away speed dating. In my head, the writers all wore underpants on top of some garishly coloured tights and rolled around the floor from table to table, with the gusty backing sound of Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels to accompany them. In the meantime five directors laid out their plans, all sitting at desks with red telephones and Q gadgets.
In the end it doesn’t matter what the reality of the evening was. All that matters is the result. Five writers meeting with five directors and lone behold five new ten minute plays evolved. The citizens of Newcastle were so keen to hear about how the world could be saved, that the Studio theatre could not hold them. So 10 Minutes to…Save the World moved to the Main Stage, and as if that wasn’t enough, Live had to open the balcony too. The good citizens of Newcastle had spoken. They wanted to be entertained. And we were.
First up was the magnificent Mhairi Ledergwood, with her play ParkLife. I have had the pleasure of seeing another play by Mhairi, produced by those talented folk at Write on Tap, so I knew a little of what to expect. I was not disappointed. Mhairi took us on a journey of biblical proportions as her story centred around an ark: Noah’s ark.
ParkLife provided us with crisp, lyrical writing, and asked us perhaps the most difficult question of the night: how do you choose what in the world is worth saving? Melanie Rashbrooke’s direction was simple but effective; both actors left the stage ‘two by two’ (boom boom) to a gracious and well deserved applause.
Next up JoJo Kirtley had teamed up with director Anna Ryder to give us, Not for Shale, a political short about the power and strength of conviction. Picture the scene: You have been propelled to the dizzy heights of daytime TV presenting, when your hometown in Northumberland has been chosen for a fracking site. Your town needs you. Do you choose conscience or fame? This was a nice little piece, with local appeal and some solid ‘laugh out loud’ performances.
The third dastardly duo to entertain us came in the form of writer David Raynor and director Kwab Adjei. Above the Flood is set in a high rise Gateshead flat. Surrounded by water, people are forced to do what they can to survive, and for one pair of flood refugees, this means attacking any would be assailant: an old man in a dressing gown for example. Neil Armstrong deserves high praise for his brilliant portrayal of the old man, who not only thinks that he can speak with the dead, but also that he can fly. Sadly it turned out that the old man had had his wings clipped, but the audience certainly took flight with both laughter and applause.
The fourth play on this heroic journey was, A Slice, A Sliver. In terms of script, I think that I found this concept the most interesting. Louise Taylor’s scientific exploration into discovering a cure for all disease is philosophical and captivating. I was left with an overriding question: what would happen if the world was cured of all disease? (I am hoping for a spin off of this play, involving a variety of mismatched superheroes trying to inoculate the world against the corruption that such a discovery would no doubt breed.) Samantha Bell and Stephen Gregory made fine mad scientists, and director Rachel Glover made the complex ideas easy to navigate. Both thought provoking and entertaining.
Lastly the citizens of Newcastle were treated to the stand out performance of the evening, as Lewis Jobson took to the stage to play the part of teen boy Jake, fighting monsters in a ‘gaming fantasy’. X-Scape, written by the talented Nina Berry and superbly directed by Jonluke McKie, was perfectly timed to end the evening. The play formed just the right line between hilarity and tragedy, as young Jake’s battles act as a cloak in which he hides from his parents’ abusive marriage. Lewis Jobson was at times hilarious, at times heart wrenching, but certainly always high octane. X-Scape unearthed the helplessness of us all, in the shape of a small boy who could not save his mother, no matter how many dragons he slayed. Although I immensely enjoyed all of the plays and performances of the evening, X-Scape was my personal favourite.
So there we are. Five plays, five directors, and a number of talented actors. Although sadly there were no underpants being worn on the outside of anyone’s trousers, 10 Minutes to…Save the World was an excellent eclectic night of first class entertainment.
Live has certainly found some of the theatre heroes of tomorrow.
Review by Kim Spence
Guest Blogger for July