The first Round 1 came together last night on the disco-lit basement dance floor of Hoxton's Electricity Showrooms, where the evening's eight short plays shared time with live music and a fair amount of drinking. The plays, chosen from a menu by the audience, were almost all two person scenes (the final was a tense encounter between an actor and audience member). True to Factory tradition, however, each of the plays was known in full by 2-4 actors, so every part was up for grabs. Settled by games of chance, this allowed for the unexpected chemistries, occasional gender bending, and on-the-fly adaptation that worked so well in last year's Hamlet.
The boxing analogy of Round 1 came through as much in the plays themselves as in the mode of presentation. Enacted in the tight square of the glowing dance floor, every narrative was a sparring match at heart, with pairs of actors circling one another to get a good jab in. They were, no mistake, a mixed bunch executed with mixed success, from the crowd pleasing raver-meets-raver tale Love At First Sight, to the menacing Charity ultimately defused by a descent into the outrageous, to the distilled Unspoken and the just plain confusing John Lewis.
It was, as advertised, a good night out, managing the raw feeling of theatre in the making while coming off much slicker and more satisfying than an ordinary workshop. Few could have pulled off the balance of spontaneity and seeming polish were they not as accustomed to being on their toes as Factory actors. The writing talent unveiled alongside was a promising development indeed, boding well for this company as they branch out from the Bard.
Round 1 continues tonight and tomorrow at the Electricity Showrooms (tickets here) before moving to Islington's Pleasance Theatre on Saturday and the comparatively vast stage of the Hampstead Theatre on Sunday. More photos from last night are here.