The 24 Hour Plays

TOBY PARKER REES breaks it down for you nice and smooth. Impressively this review took fewer than 24 hours to write.

24 hour plays Abi Bennett adam drew ADC celine lowenthal Oliver Soden tadhgh barwell o'connor

ADC, 29th November, 11pm. £5-6


As I picked my way through the snow to the ADC with the slippery trot of a smacked-out satyr, two things were worrying me. Firstly, I was worried that The 24 Hour Plays might be dreadful, and I would have the soul-sapping task of recording the varied shitness of a huge glut of people. Secondly, I was worried that I was going to fall over. Thankfully my worries were misplaced; with caveats. I didn’t fall, but I slid into so many pensioners I felt like the feedline to a Mock the Week joke. Secondly, The 24 Hour Plays, although overall a great success, was not without its flaws.

The most prominent of these was thankfully the least connected to the actual theatrical experience; the choice of judges. The author of a series of children’s books and the AD of the Palladium’s Wizard of Oz seem to have little qualification; only last year’s winner for Best Director, Marieke Audsley, has any observable insight. I appreciate that it must be difficult to assemble a decent panel for a low-budget student effort like this, but surely the executive producer, Tadgh Barwell O’Connor, can do better. It was especially disappointing given the slickness of all other aspects of the evening; he and producer Flossie Waite deserve commendation in every other area.

Since the judging was carried out so woefully, however, I have kindly decided to give you a comprehensive rundown of the night’s plays, with individual star ratings for each.  Order is restored, and glory properly apportioned.

1. The Services of Theophilus Grant

Written by Jack Belloli

Directed by Chloe Mashiter


Unfortunately the organisers hadn’t seen the plays beforehand, or they could have curated the running order more effectively. This was the stand-out piece, for example, and it came first, so cast a diminishing shadow over everything that followed. A strong, interesting conceit was fleshed out with pleasingly strange characterisation (eponym Adam Drew and his assistant Celine Lowenthal were particularly excellent) and a script that gleamed with allusive wit and masterful suggestion. I would have happily watched this for an hour, and with development it would doubtless be an easy five stars.

2. The Face of Danger

Written by Kat Griffiths

Directed by Katie Churchill


In a worrying trend the second play was the second best. Kat Griffiths’ script and Katie Churchill’s direction was probably the night’s most effective creative collaboration; Churchill drawing Griffiths’ mannered madness into something vividly disorienting. Some visual oddities such as Conor Clarke’s cartoon scars were confidently underplayed, and the play had the most compelling aesthetic overall; mainly black costumes each with a single colourful detail. Giulia Galastro and Oliver Marsh deserve mention for the vigour with which they threw themselves into their parts, squeezing a play’s worth of energy into ten minutes. The line ‘I am the face of Danger, laugh’ spoonfed us a symbolism that had been artfully subtle up to that point, however. That said, spoonfeeding was perhaps necessary; that line was met by a few trundling ‘aahs’ of comprehension, notably from the judges’ row. Keep up, gang.

3. Death

Written by Harry Michell

Directed by Charlotte Fleming


This was unquestionably the worst of the lot, and it won the bulk of the judges’ prizes. I can only assume its overpowering obviousness was a welcome relief from two plays that required a measure of literate engagement. Lucie Shorthouse did some lovely comic business with her glasses, making the most of a part that offered very few opportunities. Similarly, Antonia Eklund wrung what she could from a one-note role; she was agreeably chilling and brought a rigid pathos to the scene. This aside, it was a wan execution of a drab conceit. Nothing surprising happened at any point, the male actors threw away every one of their lines, and it contained a cringing reference to the Horrid Henry series that one of the judges writes. The only piece deserving of ‘GCSE Drama’ status.

4. This is New

Written by Nikki Moss

Directed by Ella Jones


Had this been much longer than ten minutes, its stars would have begun collapsing into red giants (astronomy humour, there). It was written as short drama, however, and it suited that span well. Every actor brought a quiet realism to bear – and I would agree with the judges that this was worthy of the award for Best Ensemble. Unfortunately I suspect their choice was based on the recurrent semi-synchronised leg and arm crossing, reminiscent of those split-screen montages they do all the time on Hollyoaks. Which was, of course, the worst thing about this play. The cast complemented each other well, and built a tense rhythm that belies Ella Jones’ musical background. As with the other four star plays this felt new and curious, with a defined voice and tone many companies struggle to achieve after weeks of rehearsal.

5. Biography

Written by Niall Wilson

Directed by Dominic Biddle


Oliver Soden reportedly signed up for the project two hours before the groups were assembled, after another actor dropped out. Everyone else involved in this piece should thank the howling gods of theatre that he did so – both stars belong almost entirely to him. Wilson’s writing was occasionally impressive, although crushingly expository for such a short play, and Stuart Moore’s lighting was arrestingly atmospheric. Soden carried it, however. He employed his go-to tremulous gravitas, somewhat reminiscent of Peter Sellers’ more subdued moments in Kubrick’s Lolita, and loomed mournfully to tremendous effect.