Brighton Fringe 07
Venue: The Cella, Sanctuary Cafe
An enjoyable and accessible afternoon of theatre
Bite size’s menu of short plays have been pulling in the crowds and it’s a credit to their production skills that they’ve turned the dingy Cella basement at the Sanctuary into a fairly comfortable theatre venue.
The concept of presenting a collection of short plays, none much more than 10 minutes long is a refreshing one and has much to
recommend it. Theatre lovers will delight in the selection; theatre virgins who might not have the stomach for a longer show will find the bite size portions more palletable and jaded theatre critics will rejoice in the knowledge that if one piece doesn’t work for them, there’ll be another one along in a minute.
The Saturday and Sunday menu’s are different so I went to see both. With so many performers in a small space and with 7 plays
to get through in just over an hour it was good to see that the necessary scene changes, entrances and exits were all handled smoothly and professionally and didn’t distract from our enjoyment of the the shows. Indeed on the Saturday performance we were treated to scene changes by Doug Devaney and James Weitz in the roles of overall wearing stage hands. I enjoyed their ad libing and felt it helped create a unity to the pieces so I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a similar device on Sunday.
It is in the nature of this kind of theatre that rehearsal times are short, people need to be replaced at the last minute and sometimes this shows in a slight hesitancy and a lack of confidence in the material but overall the performances on both Saturday and Sunday are of a good quality.
On the Saturday menu my favourite pieces were "Spring Session"- two apparatchiks wooing in the park with their dogs; "Don’t do it
for us"- the parents from an actors nightmare, and "Paradise"- what really happened in the garden of Eden.
I loved the idea of "Tangled Net"- "Victorian email" but this was spoilt a little for me when the actors started to overplay the funny voices for easy laughs.
Saturdays menu finished with a much abridged version of Hamlet. I can see why they finished with this as it allowed all the actors back on stage and has the feel of a finale but I didn’t think it was the strongest piece. Special mention must be made of Doug Devaney and Karen Tribe for their hilarious dog impersonations in "Spring Session"
Highlights for me on Sunday were "Warm up"- what happens backstage before the show and "Suspicious Minds"- a police drama. Suspicious minds is very funny, made more so by Sandra Ventris’s over the top "widow" some great timing from James Weitz and fantastically deadpan delivery from Trevor Scales.
However for me, one play stands head and shoulders above all the rest. "Sleepless Nights" is a wonderfully written love story acted with natural sincerity by George Williams and Jolene Tattersall. I was genuinely moved. Mr Williams is totally believable both in this role and as "Brian" in "Warm up". You forget that he’s acting. Ms Tattersall responds with a contained, underplayed performance and the chemistry between them works the magic.
Jolene Tattersall also delivers an hilarious madcap performance as the apprentice villian in "Thrilling Hostage Melodrama at High Speeds with Pineapple" which is the surreal end to sundays performance.
While some of the performances would have benefited from a bit more rehearsal time and some tighter direction in places, Bite Size deserves four stars for an innovative concept that not only makes theatre accessible to a wider audience but provides an important opportunity for actors to meet and work together.
Reviewed by Robin Manuell 19th/20th May 2007