Miniaturists: more reports from the fringe

Monday 23 February 2009

miniaturistsWell, now the Whingers have discovered the excitement of living on the fringe there’s no stopping them.

Yesterday saw them at the worlds’ first carbon neutral theatre, the Arcola which is in, well, nowhere that has seemingly been graced with a name, but it’s quite near Dalston Kingsland station.

This was Miniaturists 18. Yes, that’s right. Not only the fringe, but also a mix of established writers and “new writing” which is something the Whingers stopped bothering with some time ago when the penny dropped that “new writing” is all about the promise of “possibly good writing at some point in the future”; now they just wait for new writers to become established writers.

helen-smithAnyway, the Whingers couldn’t wangle out of this one because one of the plays was written by none other than long-suffering WEW partner in crime Helen Smith (left).

The point of Miniaturists – conceived and curated by playwright and WEW-partygoer Stephen Sharkey – is to explore “the possibilities of the short play”. No piece is longer than 20 minutes which suits the Whingers fine as they are  famously known for their low boredom thresholds. Usually there are five  plays but yesterday’s event contained six.

stephen-billingtonEach play is directed by a real director and performed by real actors. Phil was thrilled to discover that one of the actors in Helen’s play was so real that he was actually in Coronation Street 10 years’ ago when he played bad egg Greg Kelly (Stephen Billington, right) for which he won the 1999 British Soap Award for Villain of the Year.*

Anyway, to cut a long story short, this Miniaturists thing has a lot going for it. If you’re not enjoying a play you at least know that you won’t have to wait long until it’s over (c.f. Terror 2007). Thankfully the Whingers enjoyed practically all of it but special mention goes to Joy Wilkinson‘s dizzyingly clever The Sunnyhill Sweepstake featuring  Anthony Shuster as a primary school teacher who is chalking up odds on a blackboard next to the names of the pupils in his class – but odds on what…?

And what a relief to find that Helen Smith’s Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange was not, as she had threatened, set in a dystopian future and that it contained the word “whinge” several times and that there was food on stage and that it turned out to be a very funny, somewhat absurdist piece about a woman who asked for a man who would write poetry about her, got one and is regretting it. Cracking stuff.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit even though we had to pay for our unreserved seats (the programmes were free though). Over a bottle or two of organic red wine in the theatre bar afterwards the Whingers found themselves seized with the confidence to write their own 20 minute play for Miniaturists 19, an idea they pitched to Stephen Sharkey as he passed their table. He was very encouraging although it needs to be developed a bit further than the current ideas which are that (a) it opens with 17 performing seals and (b) that there will be a part for Dame Judi Dench (no substitutes).

Footnotes

*Stephen Billington is currently appearing in a towel at the King’s Head Theatre in F**king Men which was at the Finborough.

9 Responses to “Miniaturists: more reports from the fringe”

  1. sbs Says:

    yeah well what can i say. love your blog, and your parties

    stephen

  2. A Clown Says:

    I believe you may find references to that part of London as “Ye Olde Hackneye”.

  3. Suzie Bee Says:

    Did I perhaps spot the word “unreserved” somewhere in the vicinity of the word “seats”? The Arcola ought to have known better!

    It sounds very interesting, though. I’d never heard of “Miniaturists” but I will certainly make an effort to go to the next one.

    • Helen Smith Says:

      Oh yes, do come to the next Miniaturists. Didn’t you say on here that it was a pity that no-one writes anything like Private Lives these days? While I wouldn’t claim that you’ll get an evening of Noel Coward-like wit, the short form does lend itself very well to comedy and the standard of writing at the Miniaturists (I don’t mean mine – they’ve had lots of them and I’ve only done one) is generally very high.

      I gather that one of the famous Stephens who comment on here will have a play on at the next one. In the excitement, it wasn’t clarified whether it would be Sondheim or Sharkey but either way, you’re guaranteed a good time.

      And of course, there’s always the Whingers 17 seals piece to look forward to, although I gather there might be public liability insurance issues (the seals would probably be OK but the Whingers unleashed could be troublesome…)

      • Suzie Bee Says:

        I did indeed say that! Well remembered. I hate self-indulgence in theatre.🙂

        May I ask how one procures a ticket? It seems that I will have to wait a while and then get them from the Arcola website when it appears there, but I thought I’d better check in case I’m accidentally being silly about it.

  4. Helen Smith Says:

    Suzie Bee, I think the next one’s not until 10th May – so quite a wait. The event will show up on the Arcola website a few weeks beforehand so you can book through them or you can just turn up at the theatre.

  5. Helen Smith Says:

    It’s such a long time to wait until the next one that I’m thinking of setting up a rival group, to be called The Manicurists. Actors sit in silence looking at their fingernails for 20 minutes. The audience imagines the play. It’s theatre of the mind, very en vogue.


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