A Snapshot From The Album Of Life: One Million Tiny Plays About Britain
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“World is crazier and more of it than we think, incorrigibly plural,” wrote the poet Louis MacNeice and it’s a fitting frame for this kaleidoscopic jewel of a play, featuring two actors playing many, many parts.
Playwright Craig Taylor has a self-confessed mania for people observation and we see the fruits of his labours. Short scenes are windows onto the tragedies in people’s lives, as well as their moments of madness, vulnerability and abandonment to the joyful minute.
Ceci Calf’s jolly bingo hall is the backdrop, acting as a function for transporting us around the country, the disembodied voice of the bingo caller announcing each scene. So, one minute we’re watching an old lady try to lessen the loneliness of her day by chatting away to a bemused Ukrainian who’s posting leaflets through her door. The next, it’s a department store and a small child is asking for digital scales, spinning around like a ballerina but aspiring only to avoid “obesity”. The effect is utterly absorbing, we’re participating in an observation and appreciation of lives, which has its own eloquence.
Both Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls gave fine performances in their myriad parts, but Barclay is the standout for us. She had a soft yet malleable charm, striking notes of loss and fear in some roles, and comedy as a betrayed wife, a Geordie clubber or a lady losing her marbles in others.
The thinking might seem scattergunned, but scenes lend a gentle touch to the heavy issues the country is grappling with — immigration, loneliness, the ageing society, mental health and so on. Together, they speak of a country not at harmony with itself, Britain in bits. It’s low key, each drama as unique as a thoughtful Christmas present, a snapshot from the album of life.
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6ST. Tickets £30, until 11 January 2020.
Last Updated 11 December 2019