The OnComm is the Off West End Commendation which aims to recognise excellence in online theatre work. This award was introduced in May 2020 in the light of the lockdown arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Following over 350 submissions and over 120 awards being made it was decided to group the shows into a number of categories and then select finalists and winners for an online ceremony on February 21st, 2021. This can be seen on official OnComm partner Scenesaver’s website (click here). The event is free to view but you will need to be registered. As part of the build up to the big evening, I’ll be focusing on each of the OnComm categories in turn and previewing the four finalists in each group.
Video platforms such as Zoom conferred on playmakers the ability to stream work straight into people’s homes and although there were some technical limitations to such systems, at least the liveness and immediacy of theatre could be partly captured. In the autumn period of respite, as venues tentatively reopened their doors, there were also attempts to cater for an audience that in theory could return but were understandably nervous about doing so. Thus, it was not uncommon for a theatre to be putting on a live performance and to live stream it at the same time. This could then be captured on video for further encore streaming as times became tougher again. The four finalists in this category all took the extra step of going live and coming to us, even when we couldn’t go to them.
Before After – A Musical Love Story The Grey Area Theatre Company in the persons of Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser presented this musical from the Southwark Playhouse, livestreamed for just three performances. Although billed as “a rehearsed reading” it evidently went beyond that particular limitation. Show creators Stuart Matthew Price and Timothy Knapman reworked some earlier material to give us an intricate story played out in two different time frames as parallel relationships developed. There are also approximately twenty songs and with two musical theatre experts in the driving seat the result was a joyous celebration of the genre. The show is encore streaming until the end of February – click here. My full review is here.
Cupid’s Corner This is a dystopian fable about a commercial franchise described as “the love child of McDonalds and Tinder” where customers can order the partner of their dreams. As is the way in these narratives, soon things start to go wrong and a feisty employee (the sister of the owner) decides to bring the company down. Brooklyn based Parade Stone’s play was given a charity fund raiser reading last June by a young American cast who had started to explore the possibilities of the new (to theatre anyway) Zoom platform. The show is still available as a recording on Scenesaver – click here and would be appreciated by those who enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s Back Mirror series on TV. My full review is here.
The Boss Of It All New Perspectives and Soho Theatre’s production originally went out as a livestream but is currently available as a video on both websites – click here or here. Adapter/director Jack McNamara retooled Lars Von Trier’s cult film into an online satire about management and handed it over to a crack cast headed by Josie Lawrence – an inspired choice as the piece is all about making it up as you go along. A central scene where the hapless protagonist has to run an online video seminar was one of the most deliciously funny of the year; the script also takes some hilarious pot shots at the pretensions of a certain kind of actor. My full review is here
The Poltergeist This new monologue play by Philip Ridley was one of the theatrical sensations of 2020 with a thrilling script and what was the breakout performance of the year from Joseph Potter; his is a name to watch. Production company Tramp followed their online success with Ridley’s 15 piece monologue cycle The Beast Will Rise with this stunning piece of work which premiered at Southwark Playhouse. It should have taken place in front of a live audience, but the opportunity was removed by the latest twist in the Covid story. Instead, a mere handful of livestreamed performances occurred. It’s currently back with a vengeance for encore streaming until the end of this month – click here. My full review is here.
Hope you can take some time to have a look at these and read the reviews before the big reveal on February 21st. Good luck to all nominee finalists.
A full list of all the OnComm finalists can be found here
Further information about the OnComms (including how to submit a show for consideration) can be found on the Off West End website – click here
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