Sorry East 15, it is impossible to showcase the work and talent of 44 people in 55 minutes effectively. Neither does it do anyone any favours to select 21 duologues (and one scene with three actors) which are quite so samey. Scene after scene shows one man and one woman locked into an unmemorable dysfunctional relationship the solution for which seems to be shouting ‘fuck’ (and its grammatical variants) at each other. Of course the students are working from scripts by established, and often very respected playwrights, but why choose so many which are so similar?
Having said that, there are plenty of funny moments and some fine individual performances among the 44, each of whom appears only once so there’s no opportunity to assess versatility. Katherine-Ellen Kotz, for instance, gives a thoughtful, intelligent rendering of Joy in Nick Payne’s Wanderlust tremulously trying to persuade Alan (Paul Christian Rogers) that they need to establish a timetable to rejuvenate their sexual relationship. Both actors have the comic timing under control and squeeze every ounce of humour from the situation.
Jumaane Brown, with his distinctive and expressive looks is one to watch too. He is funny, manic and manages the mood change well in Ed Harris’s The Cow Play with Holly Campbell giving us an enjoyable Holly. Brown appears again in part of Dennis Kelly’s Love and Money with Ida Bonnast being hilarious as Val and Rob Taylor-Hastings playing of her nicely as David. As Paul, Brown hardly speaks - except with is eyes and body. It’s an impressive piece of acting.
Brian McMahon is great fun - and it’s an unusual role in this showcase - as Robert, a geeky university type with his hair slicked back in Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London. Monika Lindeman, a deeply sensitive actor, is questioning him about his work although the subtext, of course is sexual attraction. The pair play off each other beautifully and it makes for a couple of minutes of outstanding comedy
Kit Spink is good to watch as jet-lagged John in Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike. He is disinclined to have sex with his very randy wife, Becky (Charlie Howitt - good) because she’s pregnant and he’s afraid of hurting the baby. The interaction between them is impressively paced with plenty of tension.
As Roland the Beekeeper (Nick Payne’s Constellations) Diarmaid Browne is funny and suitably earnest talking to Marianne at a party confessing that she likes honey - the cheapest supermarket kind - as if it’s a foul and dirty secret. Both make a pleasing job of the subtext - his attraction to her.
Helen Waterfield, who comes from New Zealand, has an unusual rich alto speaking voice. Her scene as Lauren from Scarborough by Fiona Evans really comes to life when Matthew Jewson as Daz grabs a toy and goes into puppetry mode with funny voices. Waterfield’s reaction is entertaining.
Experts’ choice: Ronnie Marshall, agent chooses Brian McMahon, Charlie Howitt
Bruce Wall, director, chooses Monika Lindeman, Jumaane Brown