UCL Drama’s New Writing Festival: A joy to behold
A look at some of UCL’s hot new talent
Tucked away in a cosy Camden pub, UCL Drama's New Writing Festival managed to overcome my hangover on Sunday afternoon – which is no mean feat. Showcasing Drama Soc's newest members with six short plays, the event explored everything from the emotional complexity of addiction to the all-too-familiar period of post-house party recovery, confusion and regret. I'm sure I speak for the entire audience when I say the event was a celebration of the directoral, writing and acting talent of UCL Drama.
I Don’t Like Mondays by Eva Hudson
Exploring the fragmented, dislocated transcripts of Brenda Spencer, America's first school shooter, Hudson's play offers a bold and unfaltering presentation of the event. The play is stylistically abstract, bringing the audience directly into Spencer's world of confusion and pain, with a splintered timeline leaving to the audience to piece together the actual sequence of events.
Audience members were immediately pulled in, a testament to the skill of the actors, whose energy on stage perfectly matched the frantic writing and sinister subject. The flawless American accents were an added bonus.
Quitting Smoking by Thomas Harcourt
This was a wonderful play which I am lucky to have been able to see, outshining many big-budget productions with its humorous, emotional narrative of a smoker trying to quit. Personifying the cigarette into the character of 'Ciggy' was an inspired choice, and one that was brilliantly acted, drawing many a laugh from the audience. This play never drops the ball, and manages to juggle a serious and poignant exploration of blame and substance abuse with genuinely hilarious dialogue (a highlight being run-ins with 'Spliffy').
Like its predecessor, 'Quitting Smoking' also demonstrates a superb creative vigour, with an unexpectected fourth-wall break standing out as an ingenious use of theatre. I would gladly watch this play again, and I'm sure it would be just as funny a second time round.
Sea Salt by Gaia Greco
Greco's 'Sea Salt' changes the pace, and settles the audience into a touching narrative of regret and redemption through the recollections of a washed-up trader. The play manages to cover an impressive amount in its short runtime, leading us through a high school romance to the fustrated ambitions of a young family. Belle stands out as a character written with subtlety and depth, and she was performed incredibly. Reminiscient of the best parts of studying Arthur Miller, the play creates a melancholy atmosphere that allows the cast to show off their acting chops.
Ending abruptly, 'Sea Salt' left me wanting more, which speaks to the ability of Greco to create compelling characters, and bring them in a story of great emotional complexity.
Friday Night, Saturday Morning by Ewan Savage
Wow. This delve into the post-apocalyptic world that is the post-house party cleanup was absolutely brilliant. Dramatising the hungover student flat, all four cast members should be given credit for establishing an excellent comedic rythmn that never failed to deliver: special credit to Ezra Johnson for powerful monologue perfomance. Exploring the politics of student living, Savage's writing perfectly captures the groggy period of recollection after a heavy night, and does so in a wonderfully charming manner.
The showcase included two further plays I wasn't able to see, but if the calibre of the above is anything to go by, you wouldn't want to miss future shows written by any of these new writers.