Craig Taylor’s series of sketches was published in the Guardian several years before Britain became defined by Brexit. The stage version of One Million Tiny Plays About Britain is made up of 30 playlets, forming an often touching patchwork depicting the state of a nation.
Ceci Calf provides a tinselly 1970s-inspired design that’s somewhat odd for a play about more recent times. Each sketch is introduced by a matey voice-over and a bingo reference which gets a bit wearying after a while but keeps things ticking over. Because the plays were gleaned from listening to strangers’ conversations, they tend to end with a pause rather than a neatly placed punchline, as in life.
Director Laura Keefe, who first presented this production at the Watermill Theatre in 2016, creates an impression of organised chaos. Swift transitions between scenes are achieved by the actors stripping off layers of clothing and donning comedy wigs. Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls have a light touch as performers – Barclay is particularly good at impersonating the insatiable curiosity of children.
The best sketches feel reminiscent of Victoria Wood – humour and sadness inextricably intertwined – particularly in the theme of loneliness among older people. A widow relates a terrible date with a traffic-obsessed, fox-hunting bore to her daughter and an elderly lady desperately attempts to engage a leaflet delivery person in conversation.
There’s audience participation in the form of a game of bingo, a pastime that’s now in decline and was as popular for the social element as for the thrill of winning. This raises the question of how many of these small, human conversations are being lost now that so much of our lives are lived online.