Elevator Festival - Double Bill, Spoon Theory & Rat Boy Review by Guest Blogger, Jordan Beck
Hiya! It’s just Jordan back with my second blog for Live Theatre. Last week was Elevator Festival, a scheme in which Live chose various new plays and gave them a unique chance to shine. I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of the festival and catch a double bill of new plays.
Spoon Theory, written and directed by Bex Bowsher, told the unfortunate story of Belle, a bolshy newlywed excited for her honeymoon. Her life takes a shocking turn for the worst when she is hit by a car and she is forced into losing a leg. Over the next half hour or so, Belle (played by real-life amputee Lisa Eagleton) struggles to accept her disability and its ramifications. As Belle explained several times in a series of dramatic monologues – when something like that starts, you don’t realise it has started. It happens that fast. Much of the play focussed on Belle’s plight with the blasé call centre operator dealing with her claim for disability benefit and a slightly clumsily but interesting allegory about spoons. Steven Blackshaw played the role of the uncouth call centre worker brilliantly executing what was clearly the stand out writing from the piece, providing a much needed comic relief as he garnered much laughter from the audience. Spoon Theory seemed to be more of a conceptual performance than anything else. An interesting one at that, but a well-rounded plot would be needed to drive the potential where it needs to go.
Rat Boy was written by Christina Berriman Dawson and Lee Mattinson and was met with immediate approval from the proud audience of Newcastle natives as soon as it became clear that this piece was set in the heart of infamous Byker. The title cleverly referenced the infamous teenage criminal from Byker whom the tabloids labelled as Rat Boy. The piece featured an expertly crafted family of the underclass, in which the matriarch’s main concerns were smoking and watching Stars in their Eyes. It set out to tell the story of a typical thirteen-year old lad, helplessly branded as thick by his family and peers. When he goes AWOL, the Byker crew rally together to find him. What made this piece exceptionally interesting was its use of poetry – an aspect which may seem odd in a play set in Byker. At intervals, Rat Boy would deliver a rhythmic poem describing events in his life, all of which seemed to click into place wonderfully in a thick Geordie accent. I am not a huge fan of poetry, but the use of it in this play was refreshingly unique. And just to make us totally aware that this play is set in the 90s, each scene was interspersed with the characters raving to classic 90s club music. Brilliant!
There was certainly a contrast between the two plays, but both delivered something. The standout dynamic for me was the use of comedy against a serious backdrop, which made the subject matter all the more memorable. Comedic contrast. All in this innovative double bill at Live Theatre.