Scripts Aloud is a monthly event organised by Manchester Acting Directing Partnership, where new writers have their scripts read by actors, script in hand, after usually just a few hours rehearsal. This time, to add a twist for the Manchester Fringe Festival, two plays are being given two different treatments by different actors and directors. The theatre is packed to the rafters and there is an electrifying buzz in the air.
First up is Trees of Nature by Nicholas Ridley, directed by Daniel Bradford. Daisy and Simon address the audience directly, each relating their perspective of their nearly-romance-that-wasn't-quite. It's a bittersweet tale that highlights the differences between the sexes. Alice Procter excels at the moments when Alice is indignant, offended and hurt and Darren Jeffries is completely engaging as Simon with his casual and realistic northern portrayal. It is a simple and touching story, which left me feeling quite reflective at the end.
Second, we have something quite different. Adam and Eve and Steve by Sean Fee, directed by Amy Liptrott. This is an alternative take on the Garden of Eden story. Adam is an athletic He-Man. Actually, the very first one. He enjoyed his time in the Garden with his best friend Steve, and then God went and created Eve from Adams spare rib. Steve resents Eve and feels pushed out and Eve is so wound up in herself that she barely acknowledges Steve’s existence. The cast are all fantastic. Sophie Giddens really captures Eve’s flighty nature and self-importance; Danny Solomon is Alpha male Adam; Kris Hitchen is hilarious as the whining, put-upon talking snake, Keith, and Sylvia Robson adds the booming voice of God. The performances are faultless and there are plenty of laughs, including some witty anachronisms (Kinder Bueno!) Spoiler alert: they get expelled from the Garden of Eden in the end, because of an incident involving a forbidden fruit.
During the brief intermission I wonder how the next set of actors and directors can possibly improve on these versions… and surely coming second is going to seem like a watered down repeat?
Round two. Trees of Nature is this time directed by Kayleigh Hawkins. There are subtle differences: the portrayal of Simon by Ethan Holmes comes across as more brash and laddish, accentuating the different perceptions of the two people and their relationship. Sophie Coward as Daisy displays a youthful enthusiasm and is clearly besotted with Simon. (Why Daisy? You can do so much better!) This time I felt sorry for Daisy and a bit hostile towards Simon... He didn't lead her on, but he was insensitive and thoughtless. Again, it is very poignant and touching at the end.
Then we're back to Adam and Eve and Steve, directed by Rose Van Leyenhorst. Only three performers this time, multi-tasking all the way. Amy Drake, Matthew Gordon and Sam Redway wring out the comedy for all their worth. The bromance between Adam and Steve is conveyed by a priceless, lingering look between the two of them. Keith the talking snake is now a sock puppet, played at various times by each member of the cast. Keith even sheds his skin and changes his sock colour, which is hilarious and so well executed. Brilliant comedy timing and huge performances, but they still end up getting expelled from the Garden of Eden.
Both plays and all four performances were amazing. Incredible acting, natural dialogue, genuine laugh-out-loud comedy, pathos and some lovely singing by the Daisy’s. I really cannot say which version I preferred, though the second pair, I think, contrary to what I’d previously thought, benefited from the audience already by that point being familiar with the stories.
There followed a discussion with the writers and directors, which was fascinating and gave a real insight into the creation of these two very different, but equally excellent short plays. A highly original and memorable evening.
Scripts Aloud is at the Kings Arms monthly. Highly recommended. And so it the pub downstairs.
Reviewer: John Wood
Reviewed: 25th July 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★★