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Theatre Renegade’s Book Launch And Performance

A photo of two clocks showing the starting and ending times of a play

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a book launch with a difference. At least it was a difference for me as the book in question was an anthology of plays, released by a small company. It was in London but my personified sort-of-theatrical background knocked the lid of its dusty box and requested I go. I couldn’t argue with that – to Shepherd’s Bush I went.

The launch and later performance took place at the aptly named Bush Theatre. It’s a small building and entering finds you in a stylish bar, the sort of place that suggests attendance by a loyal following. The room next to it, where I found the launch in full swing (I was a little late) is a lovely library. Sparse in bookshelves given the label, yet absolutely packed with material, I can imagine a drama student would be in their element here.

I missed the introduction, but met Alicia, who had invited me, and she informed me of everything I needed to know. I bought a book, stole sips of orange juice from my boyfriend’s glass, and got my copy of the anthology signed. I did take photographs of the writers but they didn’t come out well.

The Launch

A photo of copies of the book

There are five short plays included in the book, and the concept behind the project is the pairing in each case of a writer and director. Named Courting Drama, these are plays about emotions, realistic in both the topics (the news you read everyday in the papers) and, as I would later find out, the acting.

As an example, there is ‘Bangin’ Wolves’ by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, in which a group of students are on holiday, presumably somewhere like Ibiza. They’re in a club, and one of them, an outsider who somehow managed to get an invite, does something inappropriate whilst trying to be funny. He’s at the end of what he can take, literally, and the play ends on a particularly sour note. Then there is ‘Scarlet’, in which four actors play the same person, all taking turns to talk. What’s interesting about this is that not only is it a usual story – a girl dumped by her boyfriend meeting another man and then leaving quickly when the wife she didn’t know he had comes home – but the writer, Sam H. Freeman, doesn’t end the story with any lesson or darkness. This means that what you take away with you is the concept, the question of why Scarlet had four voices, and simply the awareness of how such situations happen. The dialogue in these plays is of course important, but not so much as the subtext.

The Performance

A photo of one of the plays, The Colouring Book, being performed

After the launch everyone headed upstairs to The Bush’s attic, a small white room, empty except for the few rows of chairs that lined two sides of the wall. The set-up meant that the plays would be in a half-round (‘In The Round’ is a theatrical term referring to performances in which the audience surrounds the stage on all sides) and the overall atmosphere reminded me of the low-key productions I had seen as a student; the ones that were understated and took your breath away far more than a rich display.

Now here I must say that the plays we saw were not the ones in the book. The plays in the book had been performed on previous occasions and this current performance was for the next batch. It was a surprise, but at the same time it was nice to know that we’d be leaving with a more thorough idea of the fare to be expected from the company. The plays were excellent; the actors were brilliant and they showed how set design just wasn’t necessary.

The last play was my favourite; a scene in which an ill-suited couple have an anniversary dinner at home. From the start it was obvious that this wasn’t a nice occasion (indeed each play sported this subtext) and you were just waiting for things to turn dark. The husband was lingering on the verge of being abusive – that he had been so before was suggested but not confirmed – and it was a constant clash of words as the wife, from a different background to her husband, sort to correct the mistakes he was making about the way she felt. This play was called ‘A Deafening Silence’ (by Ella Carmen Greenhill), and even now I know I’m ignorant of some of the layers in it. The title had so many itself – the constant silences that occurred after a shouting match, the silence promised by the husband at the end when he forced his wife outside, and the silence of the audience. This last one was particularly powerful. The tension on stage was broken up by humorous dialogue at first, and even though you knew you shouldn’t, laughing helped to ease the tension. By the end it was impossible to laugh any more. I felt very uncomfortable at the end; my boyfriend’s hands were shaking. The entire production had achieved what it set out to do and there was much to speak about on the drive home.

The plays in the book can be performed with permission, and in the case of Eclair-Powell’s there is the expectation that the stage directions are changed to suit the group. Theatre Renegade do not perform often – their next production is next spring – but if you are in London at that time and like your stage filled with powerful material I recommend you find out if your trip coincides with a performance. At this rate, and with this experience behind me, you might see me there too.

Do you like theatre? If so, what sort?

Please note: I was invited to this launch, but the decision to write about it was entirely my own.



November 27, 2013, 2:31 pm

Yes. All sorts. I’ve been going to plays since I was four, since my father taught theater and directed plays. The only one I remember not liking was a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance when I was 9 or 10; I was too young for it, and the dialogue got boring. I still appreciate that my parents only once tried to censor my theater-going (they wouldn’t get me a complimentary ticket to Marat/Sade the same year I went to see Misalliance).


November 28, 2013, 3:14 pm

I love Theatre, but I find I often can’t afford to go which is a shame. I was actually thinking of doing a monthly feature on plays on the blog (similar to my weekly poetry one) as I can only really afford to read them.

Sounds like this was a really lovely event, I love the idea of a book launch having a theatre element.

Andrew Blackman

November 28, 2013, 7:17 pm

Sounds like a great event – something a little different is always good. I don’t go to the theatre very much. My experiences have been very varied – sometimes it’s great, sometimes excruciating. One thing I hate is musicals, which seem to be everywhere in London! Most other things I’ll try, though. My favourite play of the ones I’ve seen in recent years was Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka.



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