10 Minutes To… Call Home – 1 (Review – Online)

10 Minutes To… Call Home – 1 (Review – Online)

Kate Bush released “Running Up That Hill” back in 1985; this week the song has finally made it to the top of the charts. Apparently this is the longest time ever that it has taken a song to perform that particular feat; it also means that Kate Bush is the oldest female singer to have a number one hit. But then, that’s merely a couple more extraordinary statistics from an extraordinary artiste. I mention this simply because it seems pertinent to my current situation. For today I finally settled down to review a tranche of short online plays which were first released back in the autumn of 2020 but that for a myriad of reasons had languished unseen as part of my Theatre Online journey. It was only when going through my listings recently that I realised I had well and truly let the moment pass. I hope Newcastle’s Live Theatre, who produced the material, will forgive me but at least there is a distinct advantage in the digital format that there’s no time limit to viewing and reviewing which needs to be imposed. The series, which goes under the general title of 10 Minutes To…Call Home consists of nine shorts developed from an open script call out; so, in time honoured fashion let’s kick off with the first three.

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Watching And Waiting is written by Olu Alakija and concerns Nikki who is just turning 21 and out to obtain some answers about her past, the better to secure her future. It is written in the form of a direct paislie-8address to her mother Rachel who gave her up for care when she was still a baby. Whether this is because Rachel was too young and was not allowed to keep her child by her own parents or because Nikki was mixed race isn’t clear and lies at the heart of what she wants to get clarified. She has lived in care for most of her life and contrasts her upbringing with that of her younger white stepbrother who has wanted for nothing – especially his parents’ love and attention. Paislie Reid plays Nikki with mounting intensity; she is both saddened by the events she describes and angry with the people who perpetrated them. She has all but become a stalker in her quest to find out the truth, a facet of her character which gives edge to the narrative which finishes as she directly approaches the object of her quest for the first time. It’s a disarmingly simple story put over with real emotion by Reid who has us believing in her character right from the off.

The truncated text speak of the title yu can’t start revolutions sitting on yr arse is carried through into the abbreviated writing and staccato delivery of the second piece from its creator gobscure (also lower revolution-4case). It is clearly fuelled by a deep seated anger on the key subject of homelessness and the barriers which stand against its eradication. The “gatekeepers” are principally to blame and they come in myriad forms from people who answer the telephones (or rather fail to), to lanyard wearing managers, to politicians. But mostly the finger of blame is pointed at “us” as we fail to take action against deprivation and injustice. The approach is rather too scattergun and self consciously Brechtian (the camera filming the piece can be plainly seen throughout reflected in the window) to be fully effective. Lindsay Nicholson speaks the words of what is essentially a poem while Faye Alvi conveys the same message through BSL. It is a heartfelt piece but left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

Gutter Weeds is a rather more conventional piece, though none the worse for that. Aging Bill used to live in a house that is now occupied by younger Sam, but he’s finding it difficult to let go as it was the scene gutterweeds-8of many happy years with his late wife Millie. So, he gently invades Sam’s life, helping her with the garden and offering sage advice about pest control and the weeds that are growing in the guttering. These will eventually do damage in much the same way as his own emotional blockages. Can Sam help to maintain his psyche in the same way that he helps her with the garden? And at what point does assistance become unwarranted intrusion? The generational divide is nicely played by Donald McBride and Samantha Neal and for a brief moment they bond at her housewarming barbecue. But past memories prove distressing and Benjamin Storey’s circular plotting means that neither character really moves forward. Despite that the piece has distinct charm and could probably be developed further into something more substantial.

It’s an interesting start to working through these brief plays (though I’ve just realised I’m doing so in reverse order but now I’ve committed myself so …), and I’ll be back for more shortly. In any event, unlike Ms Bush, I certainly won’t be leaving it 37 years to catch up further.

A review of the second three plays in the series is here; the third trio is reviewed here

10 Minutes To…Call Home is available on the Live Theatre website – click here

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