SHOOT Festival, Belgrade Theatre , March 17-18. Letters From The Front, Beat and Wolf, Sleepless Dreams.
This triple bill started this year's Shoot Festival. But the roots of its success began back in 2014 when the Belgrade first contacted fledgling local theatre companies with a view to showcasing their work. On Friday night, through the Belgrade's Springboard Programme, the partnership bore fruit when the city's talented newcomers took to the B2 stage.
The night began with Letters from the Front, by Glow. They introduced us to Edith Ainscow and Geoffrey Boothby and their tale of young love as it moves through hope to hopelessness within letters shared throughout his posting to the Ypres Salient in the First World War.
The retelling of their story through the use of verbatim extracts gave this piece particular poignance.
To hear how Edith longed to look at the moon with her beloved; know that no-one was flag-waving for Geoffrey upon his departure; no-one wept for him on the train platform, and realise that these feelings were experienced by young men and women from the Coventry area allowed the piece to resonate at a much greater depth.
There was also humour, with Geoffrey explaining he feared the local French women because they coveted the badges and buttons of his uniform, and also his admission that he had to go for a five-mile walk after receiving a picture of Edith in order to cool off. Fancis Lowe very cleverly delivered all these moments. The use of a cartoon like digital media for the sending of the letters and the depiction of Geoffrey’s final act in the War was movingly portrayed.
Beat and Wolf, by Kinfolk collective, a physical theatre company formed by the youngest group of actors on show Friday night, also concerned itself with matters of the heart.
In Beat, Ben Morely segued through the different stages of dating in modern society (a date in Nandos had its moment) Through the music and specificity of Ben’s movement and tempo, all the anxiety, promise, and heartache of modern young love was laid bare.
The second part of Beat and Wolf was a retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood, led by Liam Lewis.
From the moment the play started you could see the quality in Liam's physicality on stage, bringing a balletic-like strength to the misunderstood Wolf. Miriam O’Brien brought an innocent curiosity to her character, allowing her need to understand the unknown overcome her ingrained hatred of it.
This culminated in what was almost a love match between the two as they gently began to trust and accept their respective foreigner.
The festival night ended with Sleepless Dreams, by Susie Sillet.
A long time ago, in a place that doesn't, exist none of what we saw had ever happened.
That was the starting point for the playful humour with which Susie talked us through a land of dreams.
The humour of the piece was its winning quality, with Susie constantly mocking the indistinct nature of her story, as well as its characters and how they knew nothing.
But how could they when a long time ago nobody did?
However within the performance we were also left to question the frivolity within the desire for an empire, the power of family, and the need we have for the escape and the possibility that can only be enjoyed within our dreams.
All this and a tree with ribbons for arms.
The greatest praise of the night has to be given to Shoot itself. For Paul O'Donnell, Jen Davis, and Jenny Jenkins to give us a showcase of all this local talent and also a following day (Saturday 18 March) of live music and a glimpse into a further nine pieces of work, is a truly remarkable achievement.
Both they and the Belgrade Springboard programme have to look on this achievement as a great success, providing a milestone which will not only propel the future of these performers, but also Coventry in its bid for the 2021 City of Culture.
Pictured are the Kinfolk Collective, from left: Claire Lambert, Liam Lewis, Ben Morley, and Luke Sheppard.