Naked Stage

Sun 30th October 2011

reviews

Fiona Kao

at 00:40 on 31st Oct 2011

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WRiTEON! is an open forum which now does two main staged readings per year—Naked Stage and Monologues and Duologues Festival. Naked Stage started eleven years ago in Cambridge as an informal reading of scripts and discussion among friends. The plays can have up to five characters and be up to 50 minutes in length. As Michelle Golder states, Naked Stage is an exciting opportunity where amateur playwrights, directors, and actors “develop skills” and “improve the level of performance.” For example, Golder herself is shadowed by a less experienced director, who would probably be able to direct a play next season; the actors are a mixture of more experienced actors and actors new to the stage; the playwrights themselves also range from Gregory Skulnick, who has experience in directing, producing, sound engineering, and set designing, Ross Howard, who was awarded “Best of Fringe” at Las Vegas Fringe Festival in 2010, and three who are relatively new—Trish Rawson, Nick Judd, and Valérie Fabre.

This year, Naked Stage is doing a total of 20 readings over five Sundays. The one under review is the second in the series. The readings were held in the ADC Bar, which was rather informal and cozy, and before the readings began, each attendee was given a feedback form and encouraged to comment on each play and give it a mark out of 10. The first half was one 50-minute play—Jessica, which was slightly too lengthy and redundant. The play is about a 20-year-old man’s paranoia over whether his girlfriend is cheating on him and him unloading his rants on his perhaps imaginary friend. The five-minute verbal feedback session sparked some interesting comments from the audience—middle-aged men who could not identify with the main character, but was abruptly cut short by the break.

The second half was three shorter plays plus a longer one followed by another feedback session. All Your Things is a monologue by a woman written in stylised poetic language; The Hankerbox also sparked the discussion on whether one of the characters was a figment of the imagination (perhaps influenced by the audience feedback of the first play) and whether the play is about male aspiration or female domination. Remembering Emptiness and Belonging was perhaps the one that received the most positive audience feedback. The audience tried to figure out what the two characters actually were: one audience member said they were toys and another said they were teapots, and finally the playwright’s intention was revealed—they are a coffeepot and a teapot. The last play, Retribution, is about a nosy neighbour who has taken it on herself to rid the neighbourhood of the child-yelling mean old man. The play takes several turns as the audience shifts their sympathy from the bound old man to the “Mad Cow,” though rather cautiously. The first section of the play in which the woman voiced her keen observations of the neighbours was too drawn out and tedious but as soon as the old man started to reply, the dynamics of the two characters changed and the truth was slowly revealed.

As the playwrights, directors, and actors were all there, the discussion was engaging and the audience’s questions speedily answered—all to a very satisfying end. The discussions were actually the most interesting part of the evening so the two longer plays could have been cut short to give more time to the feedback sessions. Naked Stage, as an experiment set up by Cambridge locals and funded by the Cambridge City Council, is now still run by Cambridge locals but with some participation of Cambridge students. For someone who enjoys offering feedback and doesn’t mind the lack of polish, Naked Stage is a wonderful performance.

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