Faced with the challenge of coronavirus closing venues, Norwich-based Reflex Theatre has taken a radical approach to putting on performances.
Not only are the group streaming online with actors live in their own living rooms, but their scripts contain just a first and last page – with the action inbetween improvised by the actors.
The results are – not surprisingly – a little variable. The format itself presents an obvious challenge, with performers often not quite able to connect.
Split screens create a barrier for the audience too, and the pieces don’t lean into this; shows like the BBC’s Staged have shown that its possible to make a virtue of that encumbrance.
The most successful piece of the company’s August scratch night was Lorna McCoid’s Chance Meetings, largely due to Hollie Harrington-Ball’s portrayal of a women on the edge. While the conclusion isn’t exactly a surprise, it was a pleasure to watch Megan Riley’s character dig her own metaphorical grave.
Opening script Flat Earth by Stephen Doran started with an interesting premise but Russell and Andrew McDonald never quite ramped up the tension to match.
Georgie Carter and Harrison Boxley brought considerable warmth to their portrayals in Alina Rios’ Stef And Arno. This insomniac’s tale feels pretty featherlight by the end, without ever having much direction.
Alexander Millington’s Child’s Play is contrastingly dramatic but ends up spiralling out of the realms of credibility, even with Ellie Searston’s portrayal of a distressed young woman hitting the mark.
The evening rounded off with Soul Music by Sean McSweeney, a dystopian double-hander featuring Naomi Bowman and JT Stocks in a future where music is banned. The idea is intriguing, the dialogue slightly less so.
Reflex deserve applause for trying something different and entering into this brave new world, and taking on the challenges of remote rehearsal and delivery.
Drama on screen is also a very different beast to in person, and using scripts and performances that take advantage of those differences – rather than rubbing up against them – could really help rope in the audience.
- Reflex Theatre’s next Short Form Scratch Night is on September 29, 2020 from 7.30pm. Details and free registration via Eventbrite.