Skip to content

WriteFest22

by on 16 February 2022

Six of the Best

WriteFest22

The 15th Annual WriteFest

Progress Company at Progress Theatre, Reading until 19th February

Review by Nick Swyft

The Fisherman and his Wife

The welcome return of Progress Theatre’s WriteFest, after a break of two years due to the pandemic, consisted of six one-act plays.  This gives local writers an opportunity to strut their stuff with full stage production and direction in front of a paying audience.  Submissions are open to anyone, but this year all the successful ones came from the Reading Playwrights’ group.  The message for everyone else is get writing!

Of course, one cannot expect lavish sets with six completely different plays to produce, and for the most part these weren’t necessary anyway.  The one exception may have been The Fisherman and his Wife where the changing situations of the pair might have benefited from a more sophisticated set, and some changes of costume.  However it’s hard to see how this could have been achieved.  As it was the Progress team did a great job of providing exactly the right atmosphere for all the plays.

A Thousand Words
A Thousand Words

The first play, A Thousand Words by Adrian Tang, was written in verse, which together with the setting gave it a Shakespearian feel – with a few modern expletives thrown in.  If you suspect Shakespeare of crudity, you’re probably right, and thus Mr Tang remained true to the tradition.  Here Everley, an artist (portrayed by Emma Wyverne), is painting a picture of a complex King (Mark Aziz).  She is attempting to capture the Kings character, but was that what the King wanted?  It seemed that at the end the King cleverly doubled as the final portrait, but he needed to remain stock still to get the best from the lighting effect, which was all but impossible.

A 3
A 3

Play number two, A3 by Neil Jarvis, followed the aftermath of a funeral, a two hander with the dead man’s daughters.  Katie Moreton pulled on the heart strings very effectively as the estranged daughter obsessed by finding out clues about her father, while her sister Kelly, the good girl, played by Natasha Hall, ably carried out the supporting role.  There was more scope for sibling rivalry here, but instead the device – a mysterious note which said simply A3 – seemed to have more importance than perhaps it should have.

Death by Misadventure
Death by Misadventure

The final play before the first interval was Death by Misadventure by Liz Carroll.  This was a lot of fun in which details of the grisly death of a bridegroom at the hands of his bride are gradually revealed.  Mark Aziz played the brother of the victim, slowly unfolding the events surrounding the death.  Megan Turnell Willet portrayed a variety of wedding guests, none of whom saw the actual death.  She was very convincing in all these of roles, and any casting director watching would be a fool not to take note!  There was some great imagery here – the actual details of the death of course, and in particular the red blood on the white icing of the wedding cake.  Very Hitchcockian!

The Fisherman and his Wife

After an interval, first up was The Fisherman and his Wife by Stephanie Gunner Lucas, which retold a Grimm Brothers’ tale, whereby a fisherman comes across a talking fish.  This fish can grant seemingly unlimited wishes, and as the wife (Laura Barns) demands more and more, her husband (Katie Moreton) reluctantly agrees to talk to the fish (again!).  This play has a traditional Grimm like message for us all, and the actors took us through it very convincingly.

Factory Children
Factory Children

This was followed by Factory Children by Matthew Beswick, in which a vlogger Kris, portrayed by Esther Arzola, goes into a derelict biscuit factory where five children and their teacher have mysteriously disappeared.  This factory might be based on Reading’ Huntley and Palmers site, though it should be said that no children went missing there as far as anyone is aware!  Still, this provided a good backdrop for a reflection on the priorities of today’s vloggers; get the number of views up (and the money rolling in), by giving people what they want to see.  Priya Bajaj and Paul Gallantry played Janice and Dan, Kris’s support team.  They had their own backstory, but perhaps this was a distraction from the main drama.

A Shot at Life
A Shot at Life

After the second interval we had the finale, A Shot at Life by Neil Jarvis again, in which Ray (Anthony Travis) commissions a slick hit man Waterman (Paul Gallantry) to murder his wife Sue (Ali Carroll).  This seemingly simple premise develops into an intriguing backstory.  Things turn out to be very different from what they seem.  The only criticism here is with the costume and presentation.  This was clearly a professional couple who had the money and status to carry out such a thing, not the seemingly hard-up chavs we were presented with.  Paul Gallantry seemed, almost worryingly, to be typecast as the hit man!

The whole production, including a long and a short interval, was around two and a half hours, but it was an interesting thought provoking evening, that seemed much shorter. 

Nick Swyft, February 2022

Photography by Richard Brown

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: