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Sunshine After Rain

by on 24 June 2020

Silver Lining

Sunshine After Rain

Richmond Shakespeare Society, on line from 19th June

Review by Alex Tustain

Theatres may be dark but you cannot keep creative people locked down and in, and it was a delight, and a beacon of hope for beleaguered theatre, to see the Sunshine After Rain project by Richmond Shakespeare Society opening last week.  This was the first evening in a series of three.  Producer Harry Medawar put out a call for monologues or other pieces (mainly poetry) to be written and read by members to celebrate the long summer solstice.  He had so much response he has created two further evenings on 3rd and 17th July.

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Monologues are the key to the new theatre production and to what can be done with Zoom, or other similar platforms.  Actors can create their own ‘sets’, find something akin to costumes from forgotten wardrobes, and perform from their own living room.  And it has the potential to be very effective, thought provoking and intimate theatre.  Some are more skilled at using the camera and the space, but this will come, considering very few of us had ever even have heard of Zoom a few long months ago.

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This first evening was therefore a mix of monologues written by and performed by RSS members.   Much, but not all, of the work had clearly been inspired by and influenced by the experiences of lockdown and there were some interesting and touching pieces.  About Bloomin’ Time, written by Vaughan Evans, was particularly original and fun – spring seen from the dahlia’s perspective as they prepare to leave the greenhouse and take their place in the garden with all the other plants for summer.  A cleverly observed piece and performed with infectious enthusiasm by Heloise Plumley.  I also liked John Roth’s Sunshine and Rain, a satirical take on Shakespeare as he grapples with writers’ block and the interruptions of his wife, performed confidently by Daniel Wain, who really found the humour of the piece.  This contrasted nicely with Lyn Randall’s perceptive piece about life from Anne Hathaway’s point of view, Mrs Shakespeare, sympathetically performed by Clare Cooper, who made good use of set possibilities.  Saddest and most poignant was A Small Armful of Dresses written by Clare Farrow, telling of an elderly lady now in a care home who finds the loneliness and isolation of the lockdown reminding her of her time during the Second World War.   Touchingly read by Sue Mapp, towards the end we heard this lady dismiss a ‘silly little cough’ and feared that these reminiscences were indeed her last.  These are only three examples in a varied and a well organised and creative evening, not only demonstrating the talents and flexibility of some of RSS’s performers but the real surprise was the creativity and insight of the writers.

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Harry and Francesca Ellis had also taken care to ensure that this was indeed a production and the ‘sunshiny’ music nicely brought to an end by Vaughan Evans playing I Can See Clearly Now gave this evening a real feel that we had indeed been to a performance.

There were some inconsistencies, some of the monologues were clearly performed and learned, and some were presented as more akin to a rehearsed reading; and some used a background set more effectively.  It was also a very wide ranging subject matter which sometimes sat a little uneasily alongside each other, but as Harry Medawar said in his introduction, it was very much ‘an experiment’.   But these are all small points that can easily be tweaked, streamlined and perfected in future evenings.

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This was the first evening I have spent in anything akin to live theatre since the curtain came down on the creative arts world on 20th March.  But I finished this evening with a real sense of hope from the creative and innovative ideas and the talents of RSS – as long as these groups exist everything need not be dark and there will be sunshine after rain.  Huge congratulations to Harry Medawar, whose idea I believe it was, and to everyone involved in this project, but especially to RSS for showing us there is at least an immediate future for theatre.

I would highly recommend tuning into the subsequent evenings.

Alex Tustain

June 2020

 

Photography by Gilbert Eaden, Jack Brislow, Andrew Nebbett and Elizabeth Wait

 

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