YOUNG HARTS WRITING FESTIVAL, Lyric Hammersmith - Review

Most of us would agree that nurturing and facilitating the development of the next generation of playwrights is a worthwhile venture. Harts Theatre Company (Ann Akin and Holly Smith) have decided to act upon their convictions by hosting a two-evening event to showcase new talent – the Young Harts Writing Festival. The twist to this event is that the 'next generation' show their work alongside the present young cream of the crop and that the audience has to guess whose work belongs to the 'professionals' or not. In addition, the audience has to decide what's the best play of the evening.

On the night I attended (Friday 8th April) which was hosted by Sabrina Grant, five plays were performed – all very different, all had much to be commended. The first play of the evening was You Lot Are Bad, which was performed by Louis Jordan (Carl) and Emma Denise Edwards (Julia). Outside a nightclub, Carl who happens to be finishing a drink notices Julia, who has been evicted from the same premises by the doorman. After a number of misunderstandings, Julia and Carl both drop their guard and find they have more in common than their public faces suggest... Most of the audience thought that because of the fresh, on the money observations and dialogue that the play was written by one of the 'new' writers, but on this occasion it was Arinze Kene, one of the more experienced playwrights who wrote it.

The second short play of the evening, Stickman had Joanna McGibbon playing Charlie – a homeless person who watches people going to and from work, and ruminates about the meaningful things in life. Most of the audience thought Stickman was written by a seasoned writer, but actually it was written by one of the 'next generation'. McGibbon's performance was arguably one of the best of the evening.

Sparrow, the third short play of the evening focused on two children – Zane Jawad (Narrator), Granit Osmanaj (Boy) and a dog which is blamed for mauling a hand, but in reality is innocent. All of us were gobsmacked by the fact that the writer was Tom Taborn, an 11-year-old boy. Truly a talent to watch.

Papow, the fourth play of the evening had Kate (Llila Vis) being given tips on fencing by Kai (Leiran Gibson). However the arrival of a stranger, Janice (Jade Khan) shows us what the play is really about – Janice's dead brother who was as organ donor and how she's coming to terms (or not) with it. The theme of loved one's actions 'living' long after death was moving and thought-provoking, and written by professional writer Isley Lynn.

The final play of the evening was SEND: A Game of Textual Tennis, touching on the potential for misunderstanding amongst the Tinder generation. With Jenny Bede (Marie) and Jamie Howard (Connor) as the 'star cross'd lovers', and Kimisha Lewis and Max Percy as their respective Text Readers, the play was as perceptive as it was funny. While there have been many plays on this subject over the past 2-3 years, this in my experience is one of the better examples and it was no surprise to me that it won best play of the evening. Again, true to form, this was written by one of the new writers, Fintan Dineen.

Going by the results of the evening, the future looks exceedingly bright for British fringe theatre, as the voices and experiences of every walk of life come to the fore.

© Michael Davis 2016

Young Harts Writing Festival ran at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th April 2016


Twitter: @Harts_Theatre


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