The Turner Plays - a review

Red on Black's Turner Plays takes five Turner paintings and makes short and memorable theatre. Rain, Steam and Speed by Annalisa D'Inella and directed by Lotte Wakeman sees a newly wed couple are on their way to London by stream train. "It can't be good for the body to travel at 44 miles per hour" bemoans the anxious Rose. Herbert by contrast is enthusiastic and overjoyed "Extraordinary - breakfast in Slough and dinner in London" he beams. The couple's conflict is a sturdy metaphor for a much more contemporary discussion. That of the need for rural spaces in a age of advancing and unstoppable industrialisation. Finally the simple act of opening the window as the train travels at speed illustrates how it's possible to welcome in the new even if one feels scared and a little unprepared.

A River Seen from Richmond Hill by Mark Lindow and directed by Catherine Paskell is a pocket sized absurdist drama. One and Two are a pair of eager adminstrative busy bodies who ultimately are shown to be powerless in the face of outside forces.

Fisherman at Sea by Sally Horan and directed by Russ Hope is set in a panic stricken fishing village in Ireland. Bridie is a brittle widow waiting for fishing boat to come in with her two sons on board. With her are her daughter and daughter in law. Bridie has already lost one son, Seamus and, as the women wait, old wounds are brought to the surface. "Stop all this lying' Bridie is told "this poison before it chokes you". This short and intense piece deftly conveys the truth about lack of forgiveness. Bridie's closing words ring a hollow truth that is hard to forget "I'm so alone. I can't forgive him for that. I hope it's little Seanie in the life boat." bitterly adding "Happy now?"

Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying by Heather Taylor and directed by Kaitlin Argeaux charts the complexities in a relationship between two women. Ever changing it's impossible to find solid ground in Heather Taylor's sharply written drama. Spiralling realities compete for narrative attention. A and B were lovers once and retell the story of their past intimacy in this revealing and compelling piece. It is a complex and destructive relationship which neither women seems capable of leaving. "Some times you have to let them go, the dead weight, they'll sink you" is repeated like a self-defeating mantra. The characters undress revealing more of their essence and the stark contrast of black and white, light and shadow. This is a tight and perceptive play about multiple attempts to let go and the repeated psychological torture of a relationship that will not end.

Sea Monsters and Vessels at Sunset by Sam Hall and directed by Arlene Vazquez revisits a viking myth about slaying a sea monster. Helga listens cynically to the Olaf's telling of Sigurd's story. She is both mocking and disbelieving and recounts how she lost a father and a brother "fifty brave warriors sailed in to a bloody sunset and you weren't one of them". In this perceptive and dry-witted drama who killed the monster is unimportant, the story is passed from generation to generation cleverly reminding us about the myths in our own lives and the seductive wonder of story telling.