Little Pieces of Gold New Writing Night, Cockpit Theatre - Review

In the wake of August's festival season, it would be easy to be blue after such an intense period of enjoyable new productions and talent. Thankfully September is the month for the annual Little Pieces Of Gold New Writing Night. Having taken place in recent times at the Park Theatre and Southwark Playhouse, this year's event took place at The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone.

Showcasing eight short plays out of the hundreds submitted, this year's LPOG offering was as diverse as it was entertaining, ranging from plays about viral news to trying to striking up a relationship at a wedding. The following is a cross section of the plays shown:

Cuckoo Pint (written by Michael Currell, directed by Linda Miller) follows a couple (Yuna Shin, Siu Hun Lee) from London who make a trip to the countryside to get back in touch with nature, and perhaps in the process, with themselves as well. An ongoing joke regarding peculiar-shaped plants provides a succession of jokes, before a gruesome discovery in the woods turns their attention to their marriage and the real reason why they're there. An original play that broaches the subject of grieving in an unusual way.

Anyone acquainted with petty matters in office politics would have found the funny side in Truth Is (by Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, directed by Sean Turner). Every office has at least person who thinks the way to be important is to use duress in menial matters – in the case of the play, Lorainne (Jessica Blake) making the staff contribute towards her biscuit tin. Cameron Harle's Mike (just like the others in the office) sees Lorainne's edict as something to deliberately ignore, while Claire (Elena Valentine) is caught in the middle – trying to protect Mike but ultimately not respecting Lorainne either...

One of the strongest and distinctive plays of the evening was I Don't Care by Charlotte O'Leary. Based on her own experience as a carer and performed by Nadine Barr, O'Leary's confessional to the audience like all the best solo pieces is multi-layered, with moments of mirth as well as universally recognisable scenarios... Having dropped out of school to look after after her mother who has cancer, Barr's 17-year-old character also has to contend with a father who has dementia (and who at times is physically violent towards her). Seeking help from her GP who fobs her on to social services and vice versa, we see bureaucracy as a tool for non-intervention. Humour punctuates Barr's monologue at regular intervals, which softens the sting of her tale of woe, but inbetween our moments of chuckling, we're just as frustrated as O'Leary at the dearth of help on offer from the powers-that-be. Of all the plays performed that evening, I think this one had the strongest natural aptitude for being developed into an hour-long piece.

Last but not least in this review, there Schrödinger's Cat by Liam Harrison and directed by Tessa Hart. Playing the eponymous feline, Sian Hill put in an scene-stealing performance as the top cat with head for science. The short play itself is funny and clever, as the cat has an existential crisis and ponders about having a life where she can do exactly what she wants (don't we all?!). The play started the evening in the strongest possible way and set the tone for the rest of the programme.

Of all the actors, writers and directors that took part this month, I would estimate that two-thirds hadn't participated in a previous LPOG event. It's gratifying to see new talent breaking through and offered the chance to flex their artistic muscles in such a fashion.

© Michael Davis 2015

Little Pieces of Gold New Writing Night ran on 7th September 2015.

Other short plays that took place that evening:
CLICKBAIT by Felix O'Brien, directed by Saul Reid
Cast: Caoimhe Farren, Max Calandrew, Roslyn Paterson
A merciless skewering of the viral news industry. If you've ever rolled your eyes at articles on BuzzFeed, ViralNova, Upworthy or their emotionally manipulative ilk then this is the play for you.

PLEDGES by Hayley Wareham, directed by Hannah Jones
Cast: Billie Fulford-Brown, James Naylor
Wareham's new play depicts a dystopian, sinister world in which those who can't settle their debts must pay in the only way they can -their body parts.

DON'T LAUGH by Jodi Burgess, directed by Jocelyn Cox
Cast: Jackson Milner, Fiona Hampton
A bittersweet two hander about the trials, tribulations and desperation of trying to strike up a relationship at someone else's wedding.

THE DOG THAT DIED by Tom Harvey, directed by Samson Hawkins
Cast: James Watkins, Connor Mayes
More and more people are displaced around the world. Abandoned in hostile lands. Ending up lost, on the wrong side of the tracks, without friends or hope in lost streets with sinister rules they do not understand.

Author's review: