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Lucy Russell gives her thoughts on the first of three evenings of new writing courtesy of Spotlights’ Bristol Playwrights’ Collective (BPC)’s ‘New Writing Festival’.

The Room Above provides the perfect intimate setting for BPC’s ‘New Writing Festival’, showcasing a range of different plays and a wealth of new writing talent. Each of the three short pieces performed had an incredibly distinct feel, but all explore simple concepts and are nonetheless effecting in their own way.

Opening the festival, Ned Elliot’s A Sense of Time is an exceptionally moving piece on the theme of grief and depression. The play is a strange hybrid of monologue and duologue as a university student (Alice Hoskyns) and an elderly woman (Layla Madanat) sit opposite on another on a train to London and talk through their own thoughts and experiences which cleverly overlap while never interacting directly with one another.

a confident reminder of the real wealth of dramatic—acting, directing, and writing—talent at Bristol; it is something that cannot be repeated often enough

There is a real comfort in the way that they both talk about their loneliness together on stage, though both of them are very much alone—there is a suggested universality of this experience of loss.

This is an exceptionally well written piece with beautiful language. It almost seems, at times when the language feels so dense and complex that the action on stage seems to distract from the richness of imagery being described, that A Sense of Time would feel more comfortable as a radio play, perhaps. This is not to slight the brilliant performances from both actors, however.

In case you missed out, BPC have two more evenings coming up soon

The second piece is the highlight of the evening, the lovely Shortfall by Lizzie Annis. This short play features a conversation between two old childhood friends, Katie (Anna Wyn) and Tom (Joss Gillespie), seeing each other after a long time apart.

The two characters are both very funny and feel effortlessly real, a testament to both the writer and actors. The piece also manages to escape the obvious cliché of the ‘best friends falling for one another’ which seems the inevitable consequence of their clumsy sexual tension for most of the play.

Instead, the audience laughs with the pair in their natural awkwardness, attempting the lift from Dirty Dancing and having minor squabbles while also attempting to be support and look after one another. While the future of their relationship is left open-ended the piece captures the nuances of friendship and is undoubtedly charming.

Bristol Playwrights’ Collective work diligently to foster new writing talent

Ending the evening is Alice O’Brien’s It’s Okay, a slightly more ambitious and longer piece featuring as Kate (Grace Calvert), a struggling comic attempting to move on from the end of her previous relationship—or, as she herself puts it, ‘falling in love with love’.

It’s Okay strikes an excellent emotional balance, brilliantly contrasting Kate’s internal struggles and confrontations with her ex-boyfriend (Benedict Crosby) and herself, with moments of light relief provided by hilarious best friend (Matthew Hayhurst). There is a real sense of journey and character development in watching Kate’s character grow stronger in herself, eventually able to leave her demons behind her, in a great mirror of the opening scene.

BPC’s ‘New Writing Festival’ promises to an evening of entertainment and a diverse range of news plays, and this is very much delivered. It serves as a confident reminder of the real wealth of dramatic—acting, directing, and writing—talent at Bristol; it is something that cannot be repeated often enough. It is a positive start to the next two weeks of the festival.

Spotlights’ BPC New Writing Festival continues on 22nd and 29th March at The Room Above. Tickets are available here.

What did you think of the new writing on offer at The Room Above? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @EpigramArts

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