WHIMSY, Theatre N16

It is a real shame that Scram Collective’s Whimsy, written by Alex Newport, is such a poor, over the top and nonsensical display. There is much potential, ranging from the anti-Faust storyline of Aoife (Beth Smith) who finds herself a beneficiary of a pact she never chose to make to David’s (Neil Gardner) male domestic abuse storyline, which focuses on a topic rarely discussed anywhere not even theatre.

These should under no circumstances be in the same play. It feels like Newport wrote one play involving Aoife and her ability to get whatever she wanted and clumsily turned it into a storyline about domestic violence. Why did the reality-bending aspect even come into this? Why weren’t Aoife and David just in a relationship that took a turn, instead of Aoife blaming her powers for her problems. I felt it made light of a very serious issue all because the production had been sponsored by a male domestic abuse charity.

The other issue is the performances. If the performances were not utterly lacklustre (Smith, Gardner) then it was at 11 with nowhere to go as Aoife’s reality bending helpers, rough and Norther Calli (Laura Bentley) with weak and serious Sebastian (Alex Newport). The only consistent and thought through performance was Lucy Saunders as the innocent and kind helper, Bea. There was a scene where Bea uses her powers and kindness to help Aoife sleep and it is such a shame that the play didn’t use more elements of this connection between the characters.

The need to create your own work as performers is obvious, there isn’t the funding for someone else to create it for you but not only was this indulgent piece misjudged it is not a great showcase for any of the performers. The sense of arrogance was only heightened by the cast’s decision not to take a bow.

My advice to this production is that it needs to remember to focus, to take a step back from being the performer and wonder what the audience is seeing and thinking. It has potential, but work out what you want to write and don’t fit inappropriate stories to keep backers happy. It was a thousand different ideas without a script editor. It also felt uninspired, the director Heather Millar, made poor use of the limited space and scenes with all five cast members were crowded and not thought through. The audience is not so mindless to forget characters if they go off stage so we can focus on the scene in question.

Company co-founder and writer of Whimsy Alex Newport says:

 “Scram Collective was formed with an attitude of ‘doing it ourselves’ rather than waiting for the phone to ring. While this presents a massive challenge, it also gives a wonderful sense of creative freedom, and we’re so pleased that we can create work for ourselves and other emerging artists. Writing Whimsy has been a terrific experience, mainly due to having such a positive and hard-working team. A team who will be brutally honest on whether a scene works or not, helping to create a piece that is personal, but well-rounded.”

The play at times needed someone to just say “Stop”.

2 responses to “WHIMSY, Theatre N16”

  1. This is becoming a theme in modern theatre: plays trying to do two or more things at once and thus failing horribly at all of them. Brief Encounter at the Cineworld Haymarket (oddly) was my first experience of this. Part drama, part comedy, part musical, part ‘experience’, part interactive, part film… so that none of it hung together and the cast had so much to do they didn’t have time to do it.

    Great Britain at the Theatre Royal Haymarket was similar. Did it mean to be satire or a comedy (two different things)? Did it mean to give an insight into the phone hacking scandal or send it up? Did it mean to cast against type or had it done that entirely by accident? It was two very good plays that had been squished into one confused mess, and again it left the actors floundering as to what they were supposed to be doing.

    I think this all comes from Enron, which was a play that *did* successfully marry lots of disparate parts into something that was greater than them all. Enron was about 5 plays pushed together, but they worked together, they didn’t jar or fight and the entire thing had a direction to it – and a cast that therefore knew how to play the play. It was so good, writers have been trying to rewrite it afresh ever since, and are continually and badly failing.


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