FOUR new plays from Frome’s adventurous Nevertheless Productions is always an intriguing prospect – even in July when the pub theatre space at The Cornerhouse will be like an oven. The description of “quirky morality plays for the 21st century” certainly added to the appeal of the Frome Festival event.
So what is a morality play? The dictionary definition is “a kind of allegorical drama having personified abstract qualities as the main characters and presenting a lesson about good conduct and character, popular in the 15th and early 16th centuries.”
The original plays focused on archetypal sins, so what themes did playwrights Crysse Morrison and Rosie Finnegan find for their four little plays, Under The Duvet, The Last Supper, Your Time Starts Now and Terry Talk?
On the face of it, abortion, euthanasia, self awareness and one-night stands sound pretty 21st century. But the underlying themes – honesty, courage, how we communicate with each other, trust, love and death – are eternal.
The overall title of the evening – performed by four members of the new Frome Actors Network – Becki Bradley, Simon Blakeman, Lou Hart and Mark Scopes – is Where The Fault Lies.
Initially, in Morrison’s first play Under The Duvet, you think you are apportioning blame – sympathising with the wife who finds her social worker husband is a cowardly, weak liar. Easy to see where the fault lies there.
In Finnegan’s The Last Supper, it’s not so straightforward. We rapidly understand, as Val’s dysfunctional family gathers, in 2053, for her 70th birthday dinner, that this event is far from happy. Val has reached the age for “compulsory deliverance.” Do we, in 2019, all share in the blame for creating a world that is over-populated, where elderly care and health care are beyond affordable. Our fault, perhaps?
Morrison’s second playlet, Your Time Starts Now, focuses on Harry, who is in denial about just about everything, takes the blame when his partner beats him up, doesn’t want to recognise the truth of his damaged childhood. Whose fault is it? Is he the author of his own misfortunes?
The cleverness of the evening’s title becomes clear in Crysse Morrison’s final playlet – Terry Talk. The terry is the terry towelling robes worn by Naomi and Joe, a couple on one of those idyllic holidays promised in brochures, with gentle breezes and iridescent infinity pools … until Judith arrives. She’s the ultimate New Age goddess figure in floaty florals. And then the earth moves – literally, rather than in the Hemingway sense. Gradually you realise that Judith and Joe have a history – and the perfect holiday break is located on the San Andreas Fault …
This was a hugely enjoyable quartet of plays, each with clever twists and psychological insights, that kept the sweltering audience hanging on every word, and laughing constantly. Congratulations particularly to the trio in the final play – the physical skills required to make us all feel we were in an earthquake were remarkable!