views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Tristan Bates Theatre
5th August 2015


Neil J Byden as Lance

Photography provided by The Pensive Federation

Have you ever seen one of the Pensive Federation's new writing nights and been impressed with their work, but wished you could have spent a little bit longer with the characters? Well, you're in luck, because playwrights Leah Cowan, Mike Carter and Serena Haywood have come together to pen a 70-minute full length show. Rewritten uses the same established principles of working with an incomplete, abstract idea and collaborating with others in a short space of time and therefore despite this being brand new, there's a very familiar feel to the production.

Lance (Neil J Byden) has retreated to a locked room. We don't know why exactly - all we have to go on is a rambling monologue which frequently twists and turns at bizarre tangents. However, there's a definite sense of fragility very close to surface, and suggestions of deep-rooted grief. There may not be a real apocalypse on the other side of the door but something has pushed Lance into hiding away, unable to cope with an unbearable reality. He's a little quirky to say the least, but he's extremely likeable, and whilst it's impossible to keep up with his ever-changing verbal outpouring, we're mesmerised by his words.

After a strong start to the narrative involving a shoeless excursion to Asda of all places, the middle section feels distinctly uneven and out of place. Given this is a show about a man suffering some kind of mental breakdown, you could argue that all the wobbles are intentional. Normally a bit of music from this company is a highlight, but the songs by Lemon Otter and Franner Otter feel strangely jarring. Not everything is meant to make sense though, and by unsettling us by the random singing, it does help broadly keep us in tune with Lance's fractured thoughts.

Lance isn't capable of following a cohesive thread, living in effectively a world of make-believe, presumably because it's safer. There are two occasions where the fourth wall temporarily slips, leading to well-earned raucous laughter, but even when the screen goes back up, we do feel very close to Lance.

The stage is divided into three discrete areas, with director Christopher Lawson showing the passing of time with three identical clocks stopped at different times. There comes a point in the final third where suddenly everything makes perfect crazy sense and you realise what you're staring at has changed from three very simple spaces to complete chaos complete with chalk scribblings on the wall and floor. Although Cowan, Carter and Haywood have taken primary responsibility for part of the day - the show is divided into morning, afternoon and evening - it does feel like they've blurred the lines between their contributions and somehow brought it together in a hearty, warming concoction - a bit like Lance's pot of soup, really.

Rewritten is a deeply creative, entertaining and poignant piece of new writing. The title pretty much says it all - it's something recognisable and comforting, but subtly tweaked.

Rewritten opened on 3rd August and runs until 8th August 2015 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)

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