What a time to be a drama student, eh? With theatres shut almost permanently for over a year and education limping along for not much less time, it must have been incredibly frustrating and tough to learn one’s craft with no outlet to showcase talent and nothing but uncertainty to come at the end of the course. And although the latter has always been the case for drama students, the current crop must be feeling it more keenly than their predecessors. Nothing daunted though, some students from Trinity Laban College based in Greenwich have put together a new play which is being streamed via the Cockpit for the rest of this current week.
The play is called One Half Of Two and is the brainchild of Phoebe Noble who writes, produces and appears in one of the three roles. The piece is directed by fellow student Holly McConville who is also one of the three performers. The third actor is Alex Hill and the fourth Emily Rayner. And if you’ve just spotted that there are three roles and four actors that is because there are two versions of the play available with Noble and Rayner doubling one of the roles in the two iterations – audiences can choose which version to watch. I chose the version with the author in it though did watch one or two extracts of the other in order to see how that panned out. The good news is that whichever version you choose you are going to see assured and heartfelt performances with each team bonding well.
None of the characters is named but are delineated by their city of origin, these being Belfast, Glasgow and London. Despite their geographical distance the three young women portrayed share a common experience in that they are all at the point where a relationship has ceased to function, partners go their separate ways, and they are finding out what the world holds for them in a post relationship setting. Their reactions vary from incredulity to anger to (eventually) acceptance but all go on that most fashionable of trends a “journey”. Along the way we discover more about their pasts which have contributed to their present outlooks and their provisional plans for the future as they embrace a life of self-sufficiency. Principally this is the realisation that they will (and should) define themselves as individuals rather than as part of a bonded unit; this manifests itself in all sorts of ways, particularly the prosaically mundane. As one of the characters says of a trip to the supermarket: “I don’t get a trolley anymore – I get a basket”.
The actors sometimes speak in unison but more often than not as solo voices in a format that has them passing an imaginary relay race baton from one to the other. This suggests that although their experience may be individual, it is also universal. So, essentially, the piece is three intertwined monologues though the structure retains a bit more interest in a form which is rapidly becoming ubiquitous by altering track periodically. At several points the currently non-monologuing pair become characters in the main speaker’s story which, again, gives more interest to proceedings. The staging could not be more simple with its black box theatre setting and no attempt to distract with design elements. For the power lies in the words – Noble’s bio has her listed as a “spoken word poet” – which are a slightly heightened form of the everyday and mark the writer out as someone of promise.
Although One Half Of Two is presented as a finished piece it feels like there is still some more work to be done to sharpen the edges and round out the characters. As a show case for some enterprising student actors though it is an engaging and thought provoking forty five minutes which deserves an audience. Why not show some support for the next generation of performing talent by seeking this piece out and enjoying what it has to offer?