The 24 Hour Plays

On Sunday night, five groups of Cambridge students were given the task of coming up with a play they’d perform 24 hours later at the ADC. ABI BENNETT explains the results – ‘chaotic’, ‘shambolic’, and occasionally ‘fantastic’.

24 hour plays Abi Bennett hugh stubbins James Parris matilda wnek will chappell

ADC, 11pm, Monday 27th November

It’s that time of the year again. As the nights draw in and Christmas starts to look more appetising by the day, we gather in for the annual celebration of amateur dramatic madness that is the 24 hour plays: when five groups of actors are given the task of creating 5 new plays in 24 hours. The sheer variety and talent on show warmed the cockles, as a (very) enthusiastic audience whooped and cheered. The shows weren’t hugely polished or professional, but that’s not the point. The night embraces the chaos of amateur drama, and the joy of the creative act. Instead of trying to review the night as a whole, it seems more logical to look at each play in its own right, as they were each so distinctive it would be unfair to conflate them.


More –

More’s set-up was confusing: a girl bringing a boyfriend home to meet her friends seems straightforward, but for some reason it was set entirely on a park bench, surrounded by strewn lager cans. The difference between Stephen Bermingham’s effete City lawyer and the rather more down to earth friends was over-laboured, which reduced the poignancy of the piece. The writing, however, was beautiful. Tudose perfectly captured the playfulness in drunken conversation, and her naturalistic dialogue flowed wonderfully. The two simultaneous conversations didn’t work as well as they could have, simply because the actors weren’t confident enough in their lines for it to be necessarily snappy. Overall, though, More was witty and well-acted, getting the night off to a great start.

Radio –

An extra star must be awarded to Radio just for Will Chappell’s excellent half naked dancing, and for his ability to hold his pose, in just his boxers, while the other scenes played around him. The writing was fantastic, with some great one liners delivered by Emma Sidi, who stole the show with her self-assured and lippy teenager. Unfortunately Mark Warternberg hadn’t mastered the necessary DJ patter, and so his on-radio scenes just weren’t upbeat enough, stopping the momentum dead every time his scene came around. His character would also have had more impact if we had seen the juxtaposition between his private life and his public persona.

Information –

A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed. Surreally showing the realities of the Internet world, Information had the audience in hysterics. It took a couple of minutes to get going, but once the set-up became clear, it was the strongest show of the night. The acting was fantastic, and impressively slick considering the short amount of time they’d had. The physical work was assured and well-executed, with the actors putting incredible amounts of energy into their performances. You would never have been able to tell it had been produced in only 24 hours, surely the best plaudit that can be given to any of these shows.

Satisfaction – 

Matilda Wnek seemed to have ignored her word entirely, with the resulting show having nothing to do with satisfaction. Instead it told of a machine that could rearrange molecules, so that the person entering would emerge as a completely different person. This allowed for some neat visual tricks, but it did seem as though the central idea was chosen simply for this reason. The set-up wasn’t strong enough to provide enough ideas for even 10 minutes, and the plot was practically non-existent. That said, it was enjoyable enough, with strong acting, especially from James Parris and Hugh Stubbins.

Imagination –

I really wanted to like Imagination; the blurb in the script sounded the most promising, and the set looked rich and exciting, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. It was much shorter than the others, but I think that might be because one of the actors skipped a section of the script. It was just confusing; I’m not sure if the section we missed was crucial to understanding the piece, but it never tried to explain what was going on. The writing was strong, with some lovely lines here and there, but the overall structure was lacking. The ending was bizarre, and the play just stopped, weirdly truncated with no explanation. No matter how good the acting or writing was, Imagination was ultimately unsatisfying, which is a shame, as it had such promise.

The most impressive part of last night was the variety between the different plays. Each writer had approached their piece differently, resulting in a veritable smorgasbord of dramatic styles. The night, despite being slightly chaotic and shambolic, was a vivacious celebration of the potential of creativity.