Review of On Stage, Empty Pocket Theatre's newest plays

Last Saturday saw the up and coming new theatre company Empty Pocket, stage their freshest creative imaginings: two one act plays that use and explore the absence of a significant or main character.

  

Hello Mrs Silverstone by Natalie Stone & A Sunday Roast by Anna Poole

  

First up was Hello Mrs Silverstone: opening on an ordinary family’s life that quickly descends into the comic and the tragic through the simplest of mistakes, a wrong phone number. Mrs Silverstone is a confused, lonely old lady who thinks the phone number to the Parker household is her own son’s phone number.  Mrs Parker and daughter Olivia react with annoyance at the constant interruption to their lives, yet when Olivia picks up the phone pretending to be pizza takeaways she lands herself in embarrassing hot water as ‘Ben’ the boy from school has managed to get between the constant calls. Late in the play Olivia’s King Lear speech is perfectly chosen and timed with John Parker’s conversation with Mrs Silverstone for her to direct comic and acidic inflections at her father trying to talk.

It is John’s developing relationship with Mrs Silverstone and the appearance of his brother Will that engages the tragic element. They have recently lost their own mother and John’s pre-occupation with not having been there to stop his mother falling causes arguments with Will. As the relationship with Mrs Silverstone and the plot between Will and John develops, the absent Mrs Silverstone seems to take on another persona: as if she becomes the already absent mother.  The play comes to a close with John Parker pretending to be John Silverstone and both characters, seen and unseen, getting what they want, to hear from family one last time and to say goodbye.

 

A Sunday Roast was up next, and a very different play to the first in its staging: here the abstract took precedence with elements of dance. The entire cast remained on stage for almost all the show, creating moments of physical dystopia with the table settings and repeating phrases to hammer home and almost to mirror the dystopia experienced in Adelaide’s head and that of the forced, false undercurrents in her relationships. Adelaide interacts with two missing characters – her absent best friend Catrin and the missing therapist. Every Sunday Adelaide must sit through Sunday dinner with her in-laws whilst going through the motions of her every day, dreary and disappointing life. Outside of the forced, formal exchanges around the dinner table there is a second Adelaide, the more honest person who lives in her dreams, wants and wishes. We recognise quickly that a miscarriage is the reason for the therapist’s presence but it is not just the miscarriage that Adelaide has to come to terms with: the loss of her dreams in staying put after Uni and the loss of her friend Cat. The audience seemed to play the part of the therapist, drawing them in to experience Adelaide’s emotions with her. Her death at the end and the revelation that Cat had been dead all along, added to the depth of understanding and empathy with the character.

 

Two very different plays that used similar themes of regret, memory, dreams and the ordinary life, looking at what ordinary events can significantly alter ordinary lives for better and for worse. 

Not one to give out stars (never have been much for rating), both plays were effective and emotionally charged: using the powerful acting, comedy, language and passion to their fullest capacities.   Well done to the Empty Pocket gang you did brilliantly and good luck!

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