According to many people it’s a good rule in life to only believe what you see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears. I’m not sure I agree, in fact I’m sure I don’t but let’s not get all solipsistic about it. Instead we can look for evidence in Smoke And Mirrors, an evening with Breakwater Theatre comprising a set of short original plays by local authors in which nothing was what it seemed and nothing seen or heard was to be taken at face value.
Having set a theme which writers were welcome to interpret in whatever way they chose the Breakwater team of actors and directors were able to offer us an evening that was both funny and poignant, ironic and forcefully direct and which ranged in style from realism to absurdity by way of some southern gothic and a little bit of good old fashioned kitchen sink.
First up was Made For Each Other by Alex Dennistoun, a lesson in the dangers of taking other people’s words too literally and as bad an advert for the joys of speed dating as has ever been conceived. Darkly humorous in tone it featured Sara Beasley as a glamorous ingenu and Jonny Allbones as the duplicitous cad and fake fireman who takes her for a ride. Or does he? The switchback narrative kept everyone guessing right up to the final reveal.
Autumn Leaves by Ian Winter offered a more reflective and wistful take on the theme as death made its first appearance of the evening with Jeannine Ridha and Chloe Rose guiding the audience through a patchwork of reminiscence towards a promise of blue skies and the pitter patter of dirt on a polished ceiling. It was a piece which conveyed it’s meaning by means of hints and allusions and left the audience to fill in any gaps for themselves.
There was predictably little uncertainty about Death And Taxi by Emma Gee however which featured Miranda Johnson as a newly deceased mother and party animal and Della Brett as a probationary Death. The central character’s misfortune in dying in full leopard print in the middle of a five star restaurant was matched only by that of Death who found that her latest consignment for Hades was not ready to go without a struggle.
After some excellent interval music from Harry David the second act kept up the high standard of the first beginning with You’re Having A Laugh by Catherine Scott, an everyday story of political ambition and soap opera watching, which should serve as a warning to anyone who has ever thought about investing in proper lace up shoes and running for office. The play showed how quickly even the most disingenuous can fall pray to the need for spin in a wryly comic and acutely observed take on politics and the people.
Mr Mumler, The Showman And The First Lady by John Ashbrook was a retelling of the true story of spirit photographer William H Mumler’s who made a fortune from faking photographs of the spirit world but was ruined by a court case brought by the legendary showman P T Barnum (despite the fact that he won). Sara Beasley as Mary Todd Lincoln, Mike Wilson as Mumler and a show stealing turn as Barnum from Jack Merlis brought the scene to life almost as if it had been conjured into the room before us.
The final piece of the evening was Raven’s Edge, a gritty story of the redemptive power of love, (p)leather and Southern Comfort by Ben Parkes, performed by Joseph Parfrement, Chloe Rose and Della Brett. It’s message that sometimes the underdog can get the girl and the booze and the jacket provided an uplifting end to an exhilarating evening of new writing, performed in the excellent new performance space at The Warehouse in Freeman Street.
The evening was brought to a dramatic close by Ben Parkes proposing to his partner Joseph live on stage in front of a packed house which left not a dry eye in the house. Best wishes to both.
All in all it was a fine night of theatre which demonstrated why the work done by the talented team of directors and actors who make up Breakwater team is so important to the local arts scene and we look forward to the announcement of the theme for their next project.
In the meantime Breakwater can next be seen performing Apple Juice, a nostalgic wartime sketch by Sara Beasley about the Lincolnshire land girls as part of the Cleethorpes Classic Car and Vintage Festival taking place at Meridian Point on August 23rd.