Listen In (Review – Online)

Listen In (Review – Online)

Following Alphabetti’s series of nine audio microplays last year, collectively called Listen Up, a further three subsequently appeared under the general heading of Listen In. Produced in similar vein, this trio had the added element of playing out over filmed images of the then empty theatre. Indeed, in a prelude to the main event there’s a quick tour of the poignantly abandoned venue showing things left just as they were when the closedown took place. The three plays which follow utilise a specific theatre space to enhance the audio tale being told.

Listen in 1- Credit Matt Jamie

Screenshot (147)For The Last Laugh, we see the empty stage itself lit appropriately by a ghost light – the traditional illumination in an empty theatre which is left glowing so that the venue is never truly dark. Over this the disembodied voice of stand-up comedian Katie Baker relives a nightmare gig at the venue when, as the parlance has it, she “died on her arse”. Her phraseology turns out to be more literal than might be imagined as she goes into detail about the silence which greeted her routine and the disastrous outcome which followed. Real life comic Lauren Pattison is both writer and performer here so is clearly in her element in a tale which has plenty of laughs but also demonstrates a performer’s continual longing to perform. Given the circumstances under which the piece was developed this is very poignant.

Screenshot (148)Moving to the bar for The Interval, front and centre there is, pertinently, a table with a half drunk glass of red wine. For this is a short story about Chris and Laura and their ongoing relationship with alcohol. What starts as a pleasant piece of socialising around theatre visits culminates in the loss of the couple’s relationship as the latter becomes ever more dependent on her daily fix. The voice we hear is of Chris (Carl Kennedy) who gradually tells us of the revelation that dawns on him that he has been an enabler. In his increasingly desperate attempts to keep his partner from the censure of the world he has covered up, skirted round the issue and let matters slide ultimately destroying the very thing he set out to protect. Ironically it is ultimately Laura who takes decisive action. Alcoholism has increased during the last couple of years so Richard Boggie’s play is a timely reminder that the business of the interval drink can be as problematic as it is pleasurable.

Screenshot (149)It’s back to the theatre space for the last piece, though this time the focus is on the rows of vacant chairs facing the stage. Young rapper Kay Greyson’s An Empty Room is an autobiographical memoir of a time when she played one of her first gigs in Sunderland to an almost entirely deserted auditorium – two people wander in halfway through reducing the number of empty seats from fifty to forty-eight. Greyson wasn’t daunted though and reflects on the restorative power of performance for its own sake whether or not it is observed by anybody. It is a realisation that has given her the strength to continue and achieve at least some of her ambitions. She is, of course, recreating this perspective by once again performing to nobody she can actually see. The piece concludes with a defiant anthem about reaching for further goals.

Screenshot (150)

Finally, there’s a brief coda as the video takes us round the outside of the building to where artistic director Ali Pritchard is symbolically rolling up the shutters in readiness to readmit the audience once the pandemic has passed. The three plays are an apt confirmation that a theatre isn’t so  much a building of bricks and mortar as the people who inhabit it, visit it and bring it to life.

Listen Up/Listen In are available via the Alphabetti Theatre website – click here  

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