REVIEW: INK Festival – A FEAST FROM THE EAST (Tristan Bates Theatre) ★★★★★

INK discovers, nurtures and develops short new plays by writers with a strong physical and/or historical connection with East Anglia. The nine shorts produced here are a short listed and sometimes award wining selection from 350 submissions this year; eclectic in style and extremely refreshing to behold with a decent mix of pathos, human frailty and laugh out loud humour.

The writers showcased include award winning film and playwright Richard Curtis (who lives in East Anglia and has also filmed there with Danny Boyle), columnist and writer daughter Scarlett Curtis, well known writer and comedienne Shappi Khorsandi and prolific television and radio writer Christopher Reason.

The plays themselves were unusual in my experience of shorts in the fact that they all fleshed out the characters so well and were so cleverly written that you were not aware that they were shorts and you went on an emotional journey with all the characters portrayed, with definite story arcs, and never once felt short changed that the pieces were not full length plays.

My favourite of the selection is hard to choose, as they were all so different; for comedy I thought “Ping Pong Club” starring the writer himself, Ed Jones, alongside Holly Ashman and Will Howard, with direction by Tim Bentinck was expertly droll and with very clever use of sound effect ping pong, suspending our disbelief perfectly as though we were actually witnessing a fast paced game of ping pong, with equally fast paced dialogue.

For poignancy and a moving human piece that brought tears to my eyes , James McDermott’s ‘Mixed Up” directed by James Christopher was a monologue by Will Howard that was beautifully executed and really made you empathise and wonder at how people would cope in a similar relationship situation.Will garnered pathos and told the anecdotal story of mixed up love with flair and heart.

Hollyoaks writer Sean Kitchener gave us the very funny, almost sitcom like sketch of awkward humour with a flatmate caught in flagrante with his co habitee’s beau with “That’s Great!”; and Christopher Reason’s “A Selfish Boy” was a heart breaking time travelling study of the complex relationship of a mother and son.

My one tiny criticism would be the ordering of the playlets; the evening was a perfect mixture of comedy and tragedy however I would have preferred to leave the theatre on a happy note so would perhaps suggest finishing with one of the lighter hearted pieces rather than the deservedly tragically moving aforementioned “A Selfish Boy”.

A really satisfying evening of entertaining and thought provoking theatre.

Reviewed by Nicole Faraday

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