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.
Young People (12+)
It is probably true to say that Young People have found moving to online theatre content rather less of a leap of faith than their older counterparts. More conversant with modern technologies that help to blur the boundaries between different art forms, there has been both revived older work and new creative pieces highlighting contemporary concerns and issues. The four finalists in this category all produced work of relevance to young people in the current climate while retaining the power that comes with telling a fascinating story.
Crime of the Century The north London young people’s theatre Chickenshed mined its back catalogue of archive videos and put out a whole string of past shows highlighting issues such as refugees, the environment, racism and mental health. This finalist show was all about knife crime which, even in the current situation, is still making headlines. It’s a hard hitting piece using the company’s traditional collaborative style but not, unusually for them, a huge cast of participants, partly because it was originally a piece which toured schools. This high energy and society challenging theatre piece is still available on the company’s You Tube channel – click here – and is an essential watch for those interested in social issues. My full review is here.
Guantanamo Boy Performed at the Half Moon Theatre in Whitechapel, in collaboration with theatre makers Brolly, this dramatisation of Anna Perera’s novel follows the story of 15 year old Khalid, just an ordinary youngster from Rochdale. Through a series of tragic coincidences, he finds himself branded a potential terrorist and facing the horrors of the infamous Cuban detention centre. This is a no holds barred production which doesn’t shrink from showing the horrors of the situation but also makes powerful statements about freedom and injustice. The play is being streamed again this week and its worth making a date for – click here. My full review is here.
I, Cinna (The Poet) Early last year Tim Crouch performed this piece live at the Unicorn Theatre and then revived it in an online form during the summer. It is part of an occasional series by him exploring less prominent characters from the Shakespeare plays, in this case Julius Caesar. Part character examination, part revision notes, part poetry writing masterclass, part meditation on democracy and politics, Crouch’s script and delivery pull together the disparate parts to make a unified and fascinating whole. This really took online theatre for young people seriously. The show was only ever live and unrecorded; however, a version produced by the RSC (but, alas, without Crouch) is still available – click here. My full review is here.
North Country This play from Freedom Studios started life as a site specific live piece in an abandoned store basement in Bradford back in 2016. It was subsequently recorded using just mobile phone technology in a derelict building with a suitably apocalyptic look. For this is a story of what happens to three survivors when a pandemic sweeps the earth. Who will hold power – the young farmer, the medical student or the mother figure? Or will they have to learn to live co-operatively by supporting each other? Chillingly prescient and realistically played out, this production really found its moment. The production is still available online and due to remain so while the pandemic goes on – 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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