'Sprint Festival' review or 'In it for the long run.'
'Short Cuts', Sprint Festival, Camden People's Theatre
Monday, March 19th, 2012
Written for The New Statesman
Over the last 15 years, Sprint Festival has become one of London’s most enduring experimental theatre festivals. On throughout March at The Camden People's Theatre, the line-up includes a solo performer attempting a duet, a show improvised around live TV and an Avon lady delivered direct to your living room. The shows are short and rough, but the hope is they'll keep running once the Sprint is over. A laboratory for theatrical experiment, Sprint is a great chance for young performers to test their theatrical tricks. It's as much as about the artists as the audience and, whilst the shows aren't polished, they're certainly sparky.
Short Cuts showcases five new works, linked only by a fiercely independent spirit. In 'The Hand That Feeds', Alice Malseed pays homage to her mother, aided by projected memories and swelling piano chords. The show is indulgent but honest and open-hearted. 'It’s OK, It’s Only Temporary' is also autobiographical, as Jenna Watt recalls a childhood beleaguered by bullying. Watt is a wild force but she needs focusing. It might be therapeutic to smash apples into the audience but it’s genuinely dangerous for the spectators cowering on the front row. Rebecca Biscuit, meanwhile, spends the whole of 'What I Know About Wine So Far', spinning a hula-hoop around her waist. As Biscuit recalls a string of dead-end jobs, she shuffles towards a glass of wine. It’s a clever metaphor for the young artist, juggling, drinking and persevering. The atmosphere darkens with Theatre Absolut’s stark monologue, 'The Wedge', in which a weary worker finds love, freedom and a corpse. Naomi Said’s performance is bludgeoningly intense but this is a smart company, making arrestingly ambiguous theatre.
Many of the spectators had already fled with apple-induced injuries before the final scratch piece, 'Zelda'. It's a shame because this teasing show, which strings together extracts from Zelda Fitzgerald's writing, is theatrically ambitious stuff. With a few strokes of chalk, a suitcase is transformed into a town and, as two identical women stumble across stage, we get the faintest impression of a woman turned inside out. Hopefully, Sprint Festival will allow this sensitive company to firm up this slight but sophisticated show.