The Playroom Duologues Competition 2011

KIERAN CORCORAN delights in double dollops of delectable duologuing deliciousness.

4.48 psychosis Adam Smith Ami Jones Angeline Hunt anna isaac Claudius competition Corpus Playroom Crave Dominic Biddle duologues Emma Powell Hannah Walker henry iv I James Bloor James Parris James Wilkinson lydia morris-jones mark wartenberg matilda wnek Max Upton Midsummer Night's Dream paul adeyefa Rob Wilkinson sarah kane Shakespeare The Children's Hour Yes and No

Corpus Playroom, 21st November, 9.30pm, £5-6

Conceived & Compèred by Max Upton


Acting is innately competitive; Cambridge is innately competitive. It was only ever a matter of time.

Max Upton’s inspired addition of baaaare dolla for the winners, voted by the audience, had dual benefits. First, it makes actors act harder and second, it gives every paying man and woman a taste of the wild power that comes with judging a performance by your peers. Which I guess is OK as long as it only happens once a year.

Since the two actors in each duologues set themselves the challenge of conveying the nuance and emotion of a play in a clipped format, I’m going to step up and set myself the challenge of conveying the nuance and quality of their performances in two sentences each.

1. James Parris & Max Upton as Caligula and Claudius in I, Claudius

If these two were ever to run an empire, I’d want in. Nervy infantile madness from the one and stuttery dissembling from the other made for the second-best thing of the night.

2. Angeline Hunt & Rob Wilkinson as Helena and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A-level of nuance below what we’d expect led to fairly tiresome take on Shakespearean comedy; boy better than girl. But she did wiggle her bum and that was pretty good.

3. Emma Powell & Lydia Morris-Jones as Karen and Martha in The Children’s Hour

Lesbian love confessions are quite hard to get right, and I’m not sure this managed it. Sure they seemed sad and angry, but dampened by clichéd Americanisms.

4. James Wilkinson & Adam Smith as a director and an actor in Yes and No

There’s only so many times pronouncing “actor” and “theatre” like a wanker will get you a laugh. This did it about four times that number.

5. Mark Wartenberg & Hannah Walker in bits of 4.48 Psychosis and Crave

Kane’s writing appears to have the subtlety of a concrete donkey, and these two handled it well. More poignant than I care to admit, this managed the most emotional clout of the evening.

6. James Bloor & Paul Adeyefa as Sneaksby and Bun in The Reunion of Sneaksby and Bunn

The only piece written specifically for the event justly won. Ace physicality, supra-Footlights wordplay and a barmily self-contained plot = laughs aplenty.

7. Ami Jones & Anna Isaac as Hal and Falstaff in Henry IV Part I

Better than the other Shakespeare, and gender-bending these parts really worked (phwoar! bra!*). The worst hindrance is that Bill’s humour hasn’t aged phenomenally, but wine-swigging langour does have a certain immortal charm.

8. Matilda Wnek & Dominic Biddle in Try, Try!

Too fucking weird to follow easily. Snap tone switches and non-sequitur, relentlessly well-managed, make this the bravest choice of the night; kudos.

This was a good idea and was successful in practice (this refers both to the event and my review). Like Kings of the Playroom we were presented with an array of delicacies and royally decreed our favourites which, as an audience member, makes you feel pretty fine – which is basically what we wanted.

*these don’t count as sentences, you pedant.