Theatre Review: Enter Stage Write (Birmingham Rep)

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Enter Stage Write
Transition Stage Company
The Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Featuring writing from Stephanie Perry, Lynda Lewis, Abraham Adeyemi, Rebecca de Fargues, and Kevin Powis.
Directed by Hannah Jones and Jacob Cruthley.

★★★★
Review by Georgia Kelly

 

On September 19th Transition Stage Company hosted Enter Stage Write at the Birmingham Rep, a one-night-only event showcasing the best of Birmingham’s local theatre talent and celebrating new writing. Over 250 submissions were made and of the five made the cut, and made for a hilarious, gripping, and dynamic night of theatre.

First up on the programme was Stephanie Perry’s #Strong Not Skinny, brilliantly cast with the precise delivery and comic timing of Rosie Coles and Melissa Westhead as the two office workers endlessly sniping at one another for their sizes. A witty and subtly sharp look at the way women’s bodies are critiqued by others and themselves. Perry, Coles, and Westhead (along with director Hannah Jones) deftly handle the issues with humour and insight, with a mini-fist-pumping moment of female solidarity at the end. No, really, I did a little fist bump in my seat. You go girls.

Next was The Audition by Lynda Lewis, a short piece that initially seemed to challenge ideas of gender and establishment in theatre soon spiralled into a Shakespeare-themed murder mystery, ultimately proving why you shouldn’t mess with auditionees.

One of my favourite pieces of the evening, along with the judges’, and winner of the £1,000 prize at the close of the night was The Cage by Abraham Adeyemi. Starring the wonderful Elliot Rodrigues and James Edge, The Cage was a beautiful commentary on council estate life and what it means to survive there, to be proud of where you come from, and to trust your brother. Superbly acted, Rodrigues commands the space while Edge demands your sympathies, both are well-crafted characters and show incredible depth in spite of the piece being only around ten minutes long. Engaging and current, a well-deserved winner.

The penultimate script was also my favourite. But sadly I couldn’t put both as #1 on the sheet we were given as we entered the auditorium, asking us to rank the evening’s scenes to select an audience favourite that would receive an award alongside the judges favourite. It just so happened that both of my favourites won, with Tainted Love receiving the audience award. A hilarious and humble look at drag, BDSM, marriage, and parenting. A strange mix, but I can’t possibly explain more as I wouldn’t do it justice. Neville Cann and Claire Jones had me in stitches, the two had wonderful chemistry and seem as if they were born to comedy. Rebecca de Fargues wrote Tainted Love just for Enter Stage Write and created a truly amazing piece of theatre. I was so enamoured of it I even forgot to make more than a few notes on it.

The final piece of the night was the tense and gripping The Candidate by Kevin Powis, a dark, funny, and at times touching piece of theatre that had me thinking it belonged on Black Mirror. A short piece I would like to have seen more of. An intriguing concept, Powis has written a clever scene that somehow made me believe an AED was about to shock the roof of the theatre at any moment.

Enter Stage Write had all but wrapped but Natalie Edwards Yesufu, the brains behind the operation and Transition Stage Company, hadn’t finished with us yet. Her thoughtful programming (all managed by the delightful compare Joanna Gay) included side-splitting improv scenes from Birmingham’s own Box of Frogs and Jumprov (both of whom I would strongly recommend you catch at Birmingham Improv Festival this October) as well as a music performance from the lively Janel Antoneshia with a brilliant rendition of Paranoid. And my favourite addition, a gorgeous, heartfelt, home-grown piece of spoken word from proud Birmingham son, Casey Bailey.

Though one of my favourite parts of Enter Stage Write had nothing to do with any performance: It was the atmosphere that consumed the Birmingham Rep for the entire evening, full of laughter and chatter and pride, actors coming out into the auditorium and sitting with the audience, writers invited up on stage to speak. There was a truly beautiful sense of community throughout the evening, with no harsh barrier between audience and creatives, showing us all what theatre is meant to be. Congratulations to all casts and crew, to the writers, and to Natalie Edwards Yesufu on a brilliant evening. I think I speak for everyone in the audience last night when I say I can’t wait to see what all of these writers and Transition Stage Company does next.