The 24 Hour Plays

They’re not perfect, but INDIA MATHARU-DALEY is nonetheless impressed (and bemused) by this year’s short-and-sweet offerings.

24 hour plays ADC guy clarke india matharu-daley kinky rebekah-miron clayton ryan am mar

ADC Theatre, 11pm, Monday 2nd December, £6/5

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‘The 24 Hour Plays’ are simultaneously a theatrical marathon and sprint. In a test of ingenuity and endurance, participants are tasked with the writing, directing, producing, designing and performing of ten-minute pieces, judged on the night by an ‘industry professional’.

At this prospect the ADC crowd was out in force, and in jolly good spirits too. The theatre reverberated with voice-coached bellows of belly-laughter, even before the announcement of the evening’s theme: ‘kinky’.

The first, and, in my view, the strongest, short play was ‘The Unrelated Velociraptor’. A game of Pictionary aboard a lonely ship led to the unexpected appearance of Celine Dion. The characters may or may not have been crushed by a blue whale. My admirably more cultured companion remarked that Eugène Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” had obviously inspired writer Ryan Ammar. A few of his one-liners were golden: “Ready as a moose” won hoots from the audience. I thought that Guy Clarke, deservedly commended for his hispanophone performance, looked like a young Adrien Brody.

Best Actor went to David Matthews, the receptionist at a rather raunchy chiropractor’s office. ‘What can you possibly hope to achieve in ten minutes?’ he asked – rather a lot, if ‘Touch My Kinks’ is anything to go by. Alex MacKeith’s play certainly was kinky, romping its way through much innuendo, incest, blood-oozing beanbags and bin-linered collateral damage. Julia Kass was stellar as Dr Fun.

Rebekah-Miron Clayton’s ‘Pieces’ was a far more melancholy take on the theme. Her five character’s monologues were less ‘kinky’ than sordid, each an exploration of a dysfunctional relationship with sex. It was a litany of morose voices: the victim of abuse, the frustrated career woman, the lubricious schoolgirl, the man we think is probably a rapist and the woman who says ‘It’s just sex! It’s normal!’ but is really quite disturbed by the whole thing. This year’s judge, director of ‘Lizzie Siddall’ at London’s Arcola Theatre, Lotte Wakeham, suggested that the it could have benefitted from more cohesion between each ‘piece’.

We learned from the absurd ‘Show 6’ that S&M and long-distance relationships don’t mix. Director Raph Wakefield had the audience tittering as Catriona Stirling attempted to tape a ball gag to her face. Spandex, a wheelchair and a Jeremy Clarkson mask made a genius, if mischievous, comedic combination. ‘Utterly bizarre’, someone commented behind us, and we had to agree.

Wakeham awarded Best Show to situational comedy ‘The Happy Victims’, a less ambitious but well-executed piece. Best Actress went to its leading lady Katie Robertson, who played an old biddy in grave danger of discovering that her grandson is gay! Goodness! Writer Shounok Chaterlee dished out bowlfuls of schmaltzy and successful puns around ‘slipping things up’ here and ‘going round backdoors’ there.

All in all, the pieces were not primped and polished, but remain promising works in progress that I hope the writers will continue to develop. Don’t turn up to ‘The 24 Hour Plays’ expecting to see perfection – instead, they are a litmus test of the creative minds at the ADC. This year’s selection was both varied and impressive.