At Solent, I am lucky enough to be taught by a renowned playwright. Not only does this experience leak into his fantastic teaching style and extensive knowledge of theatre, but on Tuesday night I was lucky enough to witness a reading of one of his plays, After Paris.
After Paris was a play written about, and in response to, the attacks on Paris last November, sensitively and provocatively portraying the effect that the attacks had on the lives of many different people, including the British, French civilians, teachers, and Muslims. The play was written in the style of Brecht’s Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, with a series of short, sharp playlets. This gave the audience long enough to begin to connect with at least one character per scene before being cut off, and forced to move to the next.
The cast featured a small but dynamic collection of actors, and was appropriately multi-ethnic. Each actor was given multiple roles, and each role varying drastically from the last, allowing them to showcase their versatility in content as well accents.
The Rosemary Branch Theatre, who hosted the reading, was small in size but not lacking in character. Each person was greeted by friendly staff upon arriving, as well as a complementary glass of wine. The theatre itself was situated up a narrow, somewhat rickety staircase above a pub, which only added to the charm of the venue.
Iconic scenes from this play included a man and woman under spotlights, focused solely on their faces. From the descriptions given, the intention was for the woman to be wearing a burqa and the man a balaclava – the woman also had an Indian accent. They turned to each other and said ‘I can’t see your face’, and then to the audience, asking ‘which of us do you trust?’. Another truly moving scene was featuring a news reporter interviewing a survivor of the attack. The interviewee was obviously traumatised and distressed from the events, and the reporter was undeniably insensitive to her suffering, asking very personal and at times sickening questions, such as ‘the man who was on top of you, was he good-looking?’, only to be cut off by a voice offstage, saying ‘CUT. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?’. The reporter responded with words to the effect of ‘that’s show business’.
After Paris completely encapsulated me. This was only a reading, and not a full production of the play, meaning that the actors read from scripts and worked only with spotlights throughout the production, forcing them to read out the stage directions to us rather than physically act them out. However, this did not detract from the dramatic tension and range of emotions evoked from this incredibly powerful play. This play was performed as an instalment of The Rosemary Branch’s twentieth anniversary celebrations, find out more here: http://www.rosemarybranch.com/