Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review: Playing Up 3, The Cluny 2, The Ouseburn

The last time I was at The Cluny 2 in the Ouseburn, it was for an outrageously loud screening of Mogwai’s concert film ‘Burning’ – but this evening’s series of plays was introduced by Radio 2 staples Queen and Dire Straits, and a hastily circulated folder belonging to a certain ‘Captain Cuth’.

‘Playing Up’ is a group of local writers who perform their own work at various venues around Newcastle. You can see their blog here.

‘The Many Adventures of Captain Cuth’ was the evening’s first play. Written and performed by Colin Cuthbert, it is the tale of the world’s first Geordie superhero: the crude but well-intentioned Cuth, who vows to protect the streets from litterers (when he’s finished barfing) and lives in dread of his nemesis, ‘the bastard postman’. Colin’s solo performance featured some impressive switching between characters and some witty turns of phrase – but I do worry about the things he was doing to that poor monkey…

Next came ‘The Price of Coal’, written and directed by Peter Sagar. An interesting premise about trapped miners discussing social change was unfortunately lost in translation: the performance was marred by poor casting and technical problems.

The final play of the first half, The IRIRFYS App, was a greater success. John Faust, a slightly obnoxious everyman, discovers a mysterious app on his phone which promises fixed-term happiness; terms and conditions most definitely apply. The highlight of this piece was David Parker’s scheming Mr. Bub (first name ‘Beelzey’) and his ostentatious cigar: a very entertaining performance.

A brief interval allowed time for an overpriced glass of wine and an overheard conversation about a ‘nacho incident’.

Lewis Cuthbert’s ‘No Response Required’ is a disquieting piece about two brothers, one of whom is mute, living in an abandoned building. Their fading ‘Last Action Hero’ and ‘Games Master’ T-shirts reflect how today’s culture is tomorrow’s refuse. The play really came alive in this performance due to some fine acting from Craig Fairbairn and Johnny Porter, who really captured the transition from affable monologue to wild hysteria. Impressive stuff, but ‘No rest for the Wiccans’.

Sarah Gonnet’s ‘Box’ features an infantile teenager and her dysfunctional parents, and treads similar ground to the film ‘Room’. It was nice to hear Slint’s brooding ‘For Dinner…’ in-between scenes, but the play felt a little unfinished.

Chris Wilkins’ highly entertaining ‘Smile!’ brought the evening to a close. A TV gameshow host is trapped on a train with two members of the public and the world’s most sarcastic train conductor.
This sharply written piece raises interesting questions about the role that entertainment plays in our lives, and was complemented by fantastic performances from all four members of the cast. 'It's Dave. It's edgier'.