Value for money in The Turner Plays at the Camden Fringe can't be beaten. Five short plays by five new writers, based on five paintings by Turner, developed by Red On Black Productions, last seen at Camden Fringe with Hostage / Bleach / Burn. The precedent for high quality new writing was set and met again in this quintet of short work.
The short scripts meant the impact of each was concentrated, boiled down to the essence, particularly in scary flatmate drama Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying by Heather Taylor and Irish family tragedy Fishermen at Sea by Sally Horan. The relationships between possessive flatmates in the first and mother-in-laws to daughters-in-law in the second were fascinating and dealt with confidently, presenting tensions between women brought together by circumstance in sophisticated, atypical ways. Both pieces brought out the turbulent passion in Turner's paintings and identified with the boiling, messy emotions churning away in his seascapes. In contrast, Annalisa D’Innella's Rain, Steam & Speed looked at the early stages of a Victorian marriage as the newlyweds adjusted to one another on a long train journey. The currents in the exchange were quiet but observant of society, geography and sexuality changing as the railway arrived to alter the nation. Compared to the stormy women-only pieces, Rain, Steam & Speed seemed tame but captured an intriguing relay of tensions and longings between the two characters.
There were fantastical turns in A River Seen From Richmond Hill by Mark Lindow and Sea Monsters by Sam Hall. Lindow took a bold step into absurdist comedy and plunged us quickly into an odd, alternative world of haves and have-nots as observed by two strange women with sinister tasks regarding rats and water for the populace. Distracting at first, the women's flippancy was slowly revealed to be flagrant disregard for humanity by the end in this intriguing, dark satirical piece. Sea Monsters romped along as a Canterbury Tales-esque story telling session between serving wench and sham-brave knight; despite some swerves into Somerset accents that seem to be theatrical shorthand for 'medieval' it was a charming and well-written little number, embracing the fantastical edge of Turner's work with a light and playful touch. A great opportunity to see new writing talent to remind you why you should get excited about it.
The Camden Fringe continues. For more information, go to the Camden Fringe website.