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.
This category recognises the creators of shorter pieces of drama which have been linked together to form an individual programme or a sequence, either finite or ongoing. The series can be thematically linked or share a common writer and individual may be released simultaneously or sequentially. The four finalists in this category all concentrated on the power of storytelling and using a variety of appropriate formats to keep their audiences returning for more.
15 Heroines: The Desert / The Labyrinth / The War Jermyn St Theatre commissioned 15 short monologues from 15 women writers taking their inspiration from Ovid’s Heroides which would originally have been performed by men; this time round women were given back their own voices. The pieces feature characters from legend such as Medea, Penelope, Ariadne and Dido. A complex range of emotions is on display across the 3 programmes which played to extremely good reviews in the autumn interim period at the theatre before moving online. The plays are available on Digital Theatre+ (aimed at educational establishments) – click here. I did not review these shows, though I have been fortunate enough to see them since
Digital Caravan Theatre Small Truth Theatre own perhaps the smallest venue ever – a caravan seating an audience of ten. In 2020 they reimagined their unique site as an online digital space and presented two series of three audio micro plays (plus a Xmas special) of around fifteen minutes each. The first set of three were all set in and around the caravan’s stomping ground of Kensington celebrating the Portobello Road and the cancelled Notting Hill Carnival. Particularly notable was the use of evocative soundscapes. All seven plays are available on the company’s website – click here – along with BSL versions on video. The first series is reviewed here, the second series here and the Xmas special here
Press Play This online festival in miniature was put together by Bristol based arts organisation Popelei and Emma Blackman Productions; it explored connection and empowerment through a number of short pieces. The platform showcased four new audio plays which encouraged listeners to follow a simple stage direction to position themselves in an appropriate location (e.g., in front of a mirror) the better to share the experience. There was also a film in English and a live Zoom performance in Spanish. The only element currently still available is the film You Give Me Butterflies, which can be found here. Unfortunately, I did not review the pieces in this series.
Telling Tales First released to celebrate Roald Dahl Story Day (September 13th) and to support the author’s charity foundation, this set of six playlets and a musical interlude featured new writing curated by the company Muck + Rumble. They are “telling” both in the sense of narration but also in the sense of significance to the teller. Much like Dahl’s own adult short stories they often feature a dark edge and a twist in the tale which surprises and delights. In a further twist it is up to each viewer to navigate their own way through the short films by making selections of the order of events. The pieces can be accessed via the Scenesaver platform – 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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