Clichés are a sign of very bad writing and JAMES MACNAMARA has counted all these chickens many times before.

celine lowenthal cliche Corpus Playroom crs Drama ellie kendrick eroticism foule readings Hatch james macnamara miscellaneous theatre festival new writing poetry

Corpus Playroom, 7th only, 9.30pm, £5


Wowsers trousers! How many Cambridge Cool Cats can you fit into one room? Cuz poetry’s really cool, right? So’s theatre. Oh, the theatre! Poetry and theatre. New writing. Oh, words! Words are cool. New words! Hatch, in between the haircuts, is all about new words.

But not many of them. The whole evening lasted a cool 40 minutes. And I was grateful for this. Much of what was hatching, into fluffy, beautiful and bescarved little chicks, grated. The genesis of Hatch undoubtedly comes from a noble place, but last night’s selection of pithy, clever poem, stilted drama, pithy clever poem… it made me pity the clever poem. Last night, it was almost totally neglected. Poor thing, it hardly ever gets an outing in Cambridge.

Oh actually, it does. ‘The Foule Readings’ of yesterweek was a delicious example. I recognised precisely one face from that evening. One shared audience member. I haven’t seen any other Hatch, but last night’s selection suggested that it suffers from a crippling naivety as to what’s actually being done in Cambridge. Really difficult, divisive and completely original work is being penned and performed here. Work that really cares about words and what they do. Hatch, in comparison to other things happening, was just not very interesting.

But it wasn’t all terrible. Celine Lowenthal’s ‘copper coins’ was pithy and clever, but it was also pretty and observant. James Vincent’s ‘Tony Harrison would think me daft’ was witty and endearing. We were rightfully told that the actors had only two hours to rehearse the drama scenes, and they were generally impressive – Sophie Crawford and Will Attenborough stood out in Freddie Crossley’s ‘Act 1; Scene 1’ as a naturalistic squabbling couple, both naturally very subtle, very real.

A waste, in such a dull scene. Nothing happened. Nothing interesting was said. It wasn’t funny. Why was it chosen? I asked this question a lot. Why was that poem chosen over another one? I only got fleeting impressions that something interesting was being said. Almost every piece contained one or two really good lines surrounded by cliché and tentative filler. Clare Mohan’s ‘Stranger’ was a perfect example of this, it had moments that were quirky and amusing, and then things like: “he had taken a series of dead end jobs to make ends meet.”  That is dead prose. It’s an exercise in packing as many clichés as possible into a given space. Please, no one ever write it again.

Jack Belloli’s ‘The Distinct Damnations (Kennel)’ – despite the bad title – seemed promising at first, but ultimately it was the same man-becomes-animal-thus-demonstrating-our-absurd-condition piece that’s all over the place nowadays. The evening’s opener, ‘How to Live a Charmed Life’, was quite amusing. But nothing really took me by the scruff of the balls, and that’s what new writing in Cambridge really should be doing.

Ah, I had forgotten something. Mark Wartenberg’s ‘dissatisfaction’. That did it. The thing is, he felt it. So deep. He was shaking. It was long and erotic. It was terrible. “Those lips… I could eat those lips.” Oh c’mon! Someone actually brought themselves to write that?! On a piece of paper?! It was a necropolis of dead American poetry, and I just can’t see how it was included. It did have some French in it I guess. That’s pretty clever.

However, at least Wartenberg’s emotion was real and consuming. Most of the other deliveries were rushed and detached. Hatch comes from a good place, and the second star was awarded for that reason alone. But if you really care about new writing, I suggest you look forward to the Miscellaneous Theatre Festival, to the next Foule Readings, and to the Cambridge Reading Series. Last night at least, Hatch seemed to be more about preening feathers than showing what people in Cambridge can do with words.