‘A Foot in the Door’ is a new monthly event hosted by Paperback Pictures, to help new and unknown creatives to showcase their work: 4 promising plays are chosen, and a fifteen-minute extract from each is performed. On the launch night, the chosen plays were Christopher York’s Seven People, Joseph Charlton’s Pterodactyl, Christopher York’s Jimbob and Jonathan Skinner’s Intercourse.
Christopher York’s Seven People and Jimbob were the most interesting plays of the night: the former consists of monologues by seven women from vastly different backgrounds, addressing a range of issues from cancer to relationships to 9/11; the latter is again a monologue, but this time with only one actor, who describes his imaginary childhood friend, Jimbob, born out of a feeling of parental neglect – and his now-strained relationship with his mother. The monologue format of both plays requires a high level of talent from actors, whether the character is speaking their thoughts aloud or holding a conversation with another character who is not portrayed – and this level was consistently achieved by the actors in both plays. The plays are well-written, often addressing serious issues but still incorporating comedy, and the direction was clever, making good use of silence in both plays and creating interesting transitions between the monologues in Seven People.
Pterodactyl was presented as a rehearsed reading rather than a full performance, but the acting was no less forceful for this. Daniel Nicholson was especially brilliant, funny and often disgusting but still relatable; while Smith and Daghorn’s performances were somewhat stiffer but still good. This extract was enjoyable, but slightly confusing: it seemed to be going in one direction, then made an unexpected turn; although the play as a whole is probably more coherent, in this extract neither storyline was concluded, leaving the audience more confused than satisfied.
The final extract was from Jonathan Skinner’s Intercourse, and again the extract chosen was questionable: although the play as a whole may well address some bigger themes, in this extract all we saw was an awkward businessman hiring a prostitute, but wanting to talk instead of have sex. Although there is nothing wrong with this scenario, the concept has been used and overused so many times that it has become a cliché – and in this extract, at least, Skinner has failed to do anything different with it. Despite this disappointment with the subject of the play, the writing is sharp and funny, and Jared Rogers and Katherine Rodden played their parts well, finding the balance between awkwardness and comedy.
‘A Foot in the Door’’s launch night presented some great new content, both in terms of style and substance. The writing, acting and direction were of an incredibly high standard, and if next month’s event continues in the same vein, the Arts Theatre will definitely be in the running as the new place to see fresh talent.