REVIEW: A Fistful of Scripts

An evocative and illuminating evening of new theatre

By Jennifer Coles

Firstly, I’d like to applaud Wise Works Media and Theatreworks for an evening like this. A Fistful of Scripts was a collection of new works presented as table reads for the benefit of their writers (cast included Leonie Leaver, Katharine Innes, Nadia Andary, Christopher Barry, Madeline Clare French, Stephanie Evison-Williams, Tom Kay, Callan Lewis, Alex McArthur, Adam Turnbull, Francesca Walters, Josie Parrelli and Kim Morrell). After each performance, the audience was invited to participate in a forum discussing the pros and cons of each script to provide the writers with invaluable information.

At the centre of Wafik ‘Fiko’ Doss’ The Heart of Rex was King Rasheed who failed to save his wife and children from murder. Believing his brother the culprit he banishes him, but is haunted by his wife’s ghost as his brother is haunted by family secrets. The piece had a beautiful grasp of Elizabethan language and some truly beautiful lines (delivered with gusto by the cast).

However Doss gets rather lost in his own words; lines were often elaborated, over-extended and repetitious. Influences from Greek theatre, Shakespeare and fairytales were abundant, but this clouded the piece – particularly the Greek chorus whose role needed to be more defined. The characters, although passionate and well-realised, lacked time to develop their motivations, leaving the ending predictable. What Doss has created is something just short of brilliance, but he needs to decide if this is a short play or a long one.

Dear and Departed (Sean McIntyre), a short monologue by a grandmother at her own funeral, contained moving images created by the woman’s memories: recollections of attempts to get her granddaughter to sleep resonated well with the audience. The piece needed to stay focused on the woman as it moved into vague territory before a significant plot revelation. This would have had more power if links beforehand been more structured.

Finally JILTED! (Parrelli and Morrell) tells the tale of unlucky-in-love Ebony who has just been stood up by her boyfriend. When she asks why her relationships fail, everyone has an opinion – particularly her loudmouth sister and brother-in-law. Dealing with modern themes, the ladies at Scorpio Productions have brought these situations to life with wonderful characters that read well together and really ‘bond’ as a dysfunctional family. JILTED! now needs to focus on defining Ebony’s character more in her search for self-improvement and answers.

Although the audience provided some insight into possible reworkings, occasionally suggestions offered were more for audience clarification than writers’ benefit. I hope the writers continue to develop these pieces and find the advice useful, for with a bit more polish, these scripts are all on the way to be insightful and moving works.

A Fistful of Scripts was produced at Theatre Works on Dec 6 2011.

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