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Drama at the Springboard Festival

Liv Dineley in Pe'er Gynt

Springboard Festival, Criterion Theatre until Saturday 1 April.

Review by Barbara Goulden

Three short dramas captured audiences on Day 6 of the Criterion's ambitious Springboard Festival. For me, each of them highlighted the widening gap between the sort of new experimental theatre that amateur groups can try, compared with the desperate need for commercial success in the professional world. Only this week there was criticism in the national press about the London stage being dominated by old musicals offering little except recycled old favourites guaranteed - as they mutter behind the box office - to get bums on seats.

First up on Thursday (30 March) was Kieran Sketchley who brought his own Colour to Colour Theatre Company to present The Pursuits of Pe'er Gynt, a curious yellow-brick-road sort of story featuring excellent acting, great timing and choreography. Haven't a clue what it was really about except the impulsiveness of youth and to showcase the abilities of this three-strong cast to play multiple, often comic roles. Hopefully Coventry and the rest of the UK will be hearing a lot more from Kieran, Gabrielle Rothwell and Finley Wilson in the future.

Next on the programme was a lovely one-woman performance by Lucy Hayton offering a masterclass in dramatic monologues with Wild Swim. This can also be seen on March 31st and April 1st.

Lucy's character is drinking, smoking and scoffing chocolate eclairs as she tries to fill the hole in her soul left by the death of her mother. Nothing can ease the burden until an old friend of her Mum's suggests she tries wild swimming. Was she mad? As it turned out nothing could be further from the truth. The playlet, directed by Criterion veteran Helen Withers, was written by Martha Watson Allpress and one of just ten chosen in a national competition launched at the start of lockown by the award-winning Papatango Theatre Company.

Last but by no means last on this dramatic smorgasbord came Fast, a home-grown production by members of the Criterion's Youth Theatre which can also be seen again on 1 April. Fast features farmer's daughter Cara, who wants to take on the health-reckless, hugely-profitable, major supermarkets she holds responsible for her father's debts and ultimate suicide.

Her one girl campaign evolves into a whole classroom stand as a 24-hour sponsored fast takes a more serious turn. I really enjoyed the sulky, teenage vibe and the way this group of young actors worked together to produce a fast-paced, punchy and thought-provoking drama.

A few first-night nerves were in evidence which sometimes made it hard to hear all the lines. However, I firmly believe with a bit more voice projection these are sure to have disappeared entirely by the second performance on Saturday.

Directed by Alan Fenn, the piece featured: Morgan Blundell-Smith, Ro McDonnell, Zach McDermott, Daisy-Mae Sweatman, Ruby Poole, Anise Hall and Olivia Simone.

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