Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Grass Roots Are Irrepressible

At Chippy Lane

Chippy Lane Productions-Chippy and Scratch Shorts Night , Theatre 503 , February 19, 2018
At Chippy Lane by Chippy Lane Productions-Chippy and Scratch Shorts Night This is not a review. As with Leeway's musicals-in-formation and Scriptography's plays-in-development it is record that an event took place.

On a crisp February night a small part of Wales is holding the stage in south London. “Diolch yn fawr” and “croeso” are not commonly to be heard in Battersea. The host and producer is Chippy Lane Productions- a homage to Cardiff's Caroline Street- founded in 2016 by Rebecca Jade Hammond. The mission is to promote Welsh theatre to audiences in and beyond Wales. After Gagglebabble and Seiriol Davies' Pontio production so recently it is good to be back in another class London venue for a buzz of Welsh performance.

Seventy-two fifteen-minute scripts have been submitted from which six have been selected by readers Jacob Hodgkinson, Chris Harris and Rebecca Hammond. This is the company's third event, the previous two having taken place at the London Welsh Centre. This third time is a step into London's real theatreland.

Theatre 503, like Porters, is a small venue whose size belies its significance. The names who have premiered here are impressive: Dennis Kelly, Duncan Macmillan, Alice Birch, Chris Urch. “Land of Our Fathers”, reviewed in Aberystwyth November 2015, began here. So too did Jon Brittain's transgender-themed “Rotterdam” before vaulting to its Olivier win.

The eight rows of seating are packed. Among the audience a few faces are recognisable. Katie Elin-Salt has a Sunday off from the Theatr Clwyd trio of plays- they are at the co-producing venue, the Orange Tree in Richmond. Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones are two of the four-strong judging panel. The quality of the acting with just a day of preparation in a crowded space is remarkable. There is hardly a glance downward at what is nominally a script-in-hand event.

The six dramatists are a new cohort and modernity courses through the writing. In Kelly Jones' “Player One Versus the World” Gabrielle Sheppard and Sophie Hughes share tenderness and anger across five time zones. In Kristian Phillips' “A Normal” Jordan Bernarde, vaping furiously, undergoes a voyage of emotional lability. The observation is sharp- the porridge he hovers over has a smell like his Nan's feet.

Elizabeth Adlington's “Larping Around” is a love triangle between three players, Ella Gonzales, Sarah John and Ross Ford, in a myth-world re-enactment. Blacksmith loses Princess to warrior Northwind who comes armed with helmet, breastplate and sword fashioned from finest aluminium foil. Greg Glover's “In Black and White” has performances of elastic extroversion from Mali Ann Rees and Alex Griffin-Griffiths. Even their eyebrows have an elastic autonomy to them. Mark Jones' “Dig Two Graves” has Toby Vaughan and Kate Elis in a revenge plot which twists into black comedy. It ends on the best closing line of the evening.

“Chips” stands out from the other five pieces in that writer and performer are combined. To both roles Ashna Rabheru brings a fizzing vivacity. The tale of the shop-lifted cider being passed off as an assumed pregnancy has an unlikeliness to it to suggest it is taken from the life. “Chips” moves to a topic of seriousness, the malignity that a bad move on social media can attract.

The award for the evening is a wooden shield, well-travelled, having been as far as Machynlleth. It heads next to Pembrokeshire where Greg Glover's name will be added. A wise writer keeps it short. “Thank you” he says “I write, so I don't have to stand on a stage like this...”

Andrew David does the introductions with bounce and charm. The directors are Anna Poole, Tea Poldervaart, Clare Sturges, Bryn Holdiing, Becca Lidstone. Laura Jasper. Everyone in Theatre 503 looks to be under the age of thirty. The cheer that the event engenders is huge. The grass roots of Welsh performance are irrepressible.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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