Charles Edward Pipe enjoys an evening of original writing at the first inter-collegiate Showcase.

Saturday 25th January marked an historic occasion; the beginning of an annual tradition, a yearly event that will span decades, perhaps centuries. What I had the pleasure to witness was, of course, the first ever annual Showcase. The premise is simple: a Eurovision-esque competition between DST theatre companies, each sending a team to perform a short play in the hopes of winning the Locomotive Cup – a nod to George Stephenson, for whom Stephenson College is named, and whose Rocket gives its name to Stephenson College’s Rocket Theatre Company.  All of this information was deftly delivered to the audience by the evening’s compere, Fraser Logue. Throughout the night he guided us through the proceedings with confidence and charm.  Although not all of his jokes landed (though many did), his persona was such that the audience knew they were in good hands.

The first performance was from Blizzard Theatre Company: The Importance of Queuing by James Smith.  This satire was about three people in line to take a British citizenship test, each of them trying to be as British as possible.  The performances from these three were entertaining, with some fun exaggerated posh accents, and overuse of the word “quite”. Lamesha Ruddock gave a more subtle performance as the civil servant, and the juxtaposition between this character and the other three was amusing.  The script was occasionally too heavy-handed with its political message, but for the most part it worked well as a fun comedy.

Next was Rocket Theatre Company, with As The Crow Flies by Lucy Atkinson.  This was my personal favourite of the evening.  It depicted one conversation: a reunion between two old enemies, after the death of a mutual friend.  The script, wonderfully performed by Adam Smith and Fraser Logue, felt like a real conversation between real people.  Contrary to what you might expect from a drama set after a funeral there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, which felt natural. It really did feel like I was just watching a conversation that two grieving people might have.

St. Aidan’s Creative Writing Society’s submission was Vaudeville by Sonny Pring and Janina Arndt.  This was a bout two washed up Vaudeville performers, one of whom cannot talk, who witness a bank robbery and have to prove their innocence and find the real criminal.  Though the script had great potential this performance would have benefitted from being a little more polished.  Big pauses and messy blocking undermined what could otherwise have been great. Nevertheless, there were plenty of funny moments, and I certainly enjoyed myself overall.

After the interval, Sixth Side Theatre Company presented The Thing About Midsummer Night by Janina Arndt.  While I cannot easily describe what this play was about, I was intrigued throughout.  On the most basic level it is about an aspiring actress being manipulated by a more successful male actor.  Rian Mullen plays this actor very well – his performance in tandem with the script lead to some effective, and uncomfortable, moments.  As the play continues, it becomes more absurd, as a drama between a horse and a jockey is played out – and yet the whole thing felt remarkably profound.

The finally performance was Buttered Toast Theatre Company’s Curling, by Alex Rome Griffin.  This comedy is very simply about two people watching a game of curling.  The two actors made effective use of silence (though there was the sound of the curling match underscoring the whole piece), and almost every line of dialogue received a well-deserved laugh from the audience.  A simple premise, well written script, and confident performances all work together to form a great comedy sketch.

After the final performance finished, the time came to vote.  This was done online by the audience, and the two judges who had watched the whole thing also had points to assign.  I think in future years the voting system ought to be refined, because this process felt comically arbitrary, with the audience’s vote meaning almost nothing.  Nonetheless, Logue kept the process moving, and the audience laughing.  If anyone is interested, John Snow won overall, and Trevs won the popular vote.

Overall, the Showcase was fun.  It was great to see so many creative people showing off their work.  Even when things weren’t quite perfect the atmosphere was still supportive.  I believe the Showcase as a concept has great potential, and I can see it growing in future years.  I am excited for the 2021 Showcase.