Maria Czepiel’s Playwright, part of the OUDS New Writing Festival, is a tongue-in-cheek look at the hackneyed “dinner party murder” genre. Playing with ideas of character independence and the author as an actor, Playwright just hits the spot for a short play – punchy, fun and, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
As the audience enter, the playwright himself (played by Ali Porteous) sits scribbling, dressed in pyjamas and bare feet. Gradually, he puts together his cast of characters, periodically stopping the action in tableaux and walking among the scenes. The line between the author and his creations, however, seems to become increasingly blurred as time goes on, until the final scene reveals the truth…
This concept of blurred reality has been skillfully brought to life by director India Opzoomer. The set is eclectic, with apples, teapots and kitchen paraphernalia hung from the ceiling and the playwright’s desk set in the corner. Throughout, simple but effective lighting indicates the split between the playwright’s world and the universe of the play.
More than anything else, the actors seem to be having a fantastic time on stage. Although perhaps a little shouty in the final scenes, the acting overall is excellent. Czepiel’s writing allows the characters to transcend their initially simple identities as their play develops (“I can’t be the murderer – you know full well that I’m just here for comic relief!”). Dominic Leonard as Nero, a flamboyant theatre director, had the audience in the palm of his hand for the comic scenes, and Meg Harrington was a convincingly heartless Sarah.
The run time of the show is only half an hour, plenty of time to play with the central concept but not too long that it becomes contrived. If you’re at all a fan of Agatha Christie style mysteries, you’ll find plenty to enjoy, even as the show pokes gentle fun at their sometimes-ridiculous tropes, such as dressing each character in a single colour, Cluedo-style.
If you want a quick break, there’s far worse you could do than going to see Playwright on Friday or Saturday this week. New writing at university often leans too heavily towards the introspective, and Playwright is a welcome breath of fresh air: solidly acted, put together with attention to detail and overall a highly enjoyable show.