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The Comedy of Errors

Triliteral Festival

19 June 10 words: Fran Bonner
Could a company feasibly stage nine full-scale new plays at once?

The Triliteral Festival from Halden Theatre

The Triliteral Festival is an idea from Daniel Hallam - Artistic Director of Halden Theatre, a small company who provide a theatre experience that is accessible to all.  Halden Theatre’s shows usually consist of known classical texts with performances taking place in random non-theatre like places such as Lee Rosy’s Tea Shop and The Jam Café.

For Triliteral, a call went out for budding playwrights from across the UK to submit their work in the view for nine new and original plays to be performed over three days, showcasing emerging talent in the literary world.  The plays were initially short listed by Halden Theatre and then passed to an independent panel of judges for further reading and narrowing down.  Final readings were conducted by Halden Theatre who chose the nine plays they wanted to see performed.  Professional and semi-professional actors were cast and the successful writers were contacted to attend rehearsals of their works.

The chosen plays were The Price of Legs by Cath Nicols, Selina By Ryan Sullivan, The Mason’s Apprentice by Yvonne Lake, Be Rain for Me by Susi Wrenshaw, Daddy’s Bed by Georgina Lock, Thanks to his Sister by Robin Acland, The Blazers by Chris Tolley, Land of the Lost and Found by Roxanne Wells and After Life by Nick Athanasiou.

I saw two of the nine plays, much to my disappointment as after seeing the two I wish I’d have been able to see more! The first, Selina was performed in The Central, previously Niche and a new addition to Nottingham’s music venues.  Twenty or so people gathered in a room upstairs to watch five actors perform Ryan Sullivan’s comical take on modern life, told through the main character’s (David) narration of his internal monologue and a chorus of the four other actors playing multiple characters.

David, played by Scott Wilson-Besgrove, is a 20-something writer telling his tale of dealing with past relationships and the one girl, Selina, who changed his life.  When I first read the blurb my thoughts went immediately to High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s story of a 30-something, music obsessed male reminiscing about his five worst break ups.  The idea appeals to me instantly, a constant battle with an internal monologue where you can’t help but narrate your way through life’s ups and downs, often with a piece of music in your head punctuating each significant event.

As we watch five very talented actors deliver high quality performances of this witty and well written play, we’re almost part of the action as David speaks directly to the audience, drawing us in.  The rest of the cast characters from the insane to the kinky and we experience first-hand David’s utter horror at walking in on a girlfriend’s parents enjoying a bondage session in the kitchen.

The energy on stage was immense; the audience were captivated and in constant fits of giggles as David tells the story of his mostly tragic and zany relationships.

Wilson-Besgrove was brilliant, his timing was impeccable delivering lines with the humour intended; facial expressions telling the story when he wasn’t.  Wilson-Besgrove was supported perfectly by Liz Smith as Selina, Tom Spencer mainly playing Martin, David’s best friend and Lea Burrows and Sarah Lee who played, amongst other parts, a couple of David’s previous girlfriends.

There was a real buzz at the end of the performance; Ryan Sullivan undoubtedly has talent and I hope there’s much more to come from him.  The audience left extremely happy, most going straight to the bar where further discussion about and praise for the play carried on, and the cast emerged ready and deserved of a large drink.

The second play I saw and the last one of the Friday evening was The Mason’s Apprentice by Yvonne Lake, a tale of a woman on the edge and a man on the edge of something big, or so he thinks.  The staging of this production was downstairs in the delightful Lea Rosy’s, a small area with an intimate feel, perfect for the subject matter of this play.

Louise, played by Kristy Guest, has reached the end of tether with her husband Barry, played by  Russell Tanham.  A hairy, lazy and useless husband, Barry sits in his underwear playing cards while Louise goes out to work.  Enter Ross, played by Nick Newman, Barry’s best friend and another albatross around Louise’s neck who’s trying to get into a secret society.

The issue of Louise and Barry’s relationship is apparent on Louise’s first entrance, irritable with dirty looks being shot at Barry; she speaks with coolness towards him constantly taking out her pad of paper to add reasons to her list of why she’s divorcing him.  As it turns out, divorce isn’t enough for Louise so she hires a ham-fisted hit man, Kurt (Leo Lanzoni) who becomes too entangled in the strange dimension of their flawed marriage and that silent 3rd person in the relationship.

A play intended with black humour, The Mason’s Apprentice is intelligent but in parts confusing and not as well delivered.  While the actors chosen for the parts are all clearly talented and performed with moments of great timing and genuine emotion, parts of the performance were a little forced and sometimes strained.  It would have been great to have seen the script in this instance as I feel some of the intended humour was lost through the delivery.  That being said it was an enjoyable work, Lake’s story covers a very real and tragic issue purposefully only apparent as the play concludes, which is where Guest and Tanham provide very emotive performances that did pull at the heart strings.

Triliteral is an excellent and well thought out idea, a great way for new writers to be heard and their works to be brought to people in a comfortable and laid back manner.  I’d like to see it return next year, with the publicity that it deserves.

 The Triliteral Festival was performed at small venues around Nottingham from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th June 2010

To hear the Triliteral organisers (Richard Pilgrim, Richie Garton and Daniel Hallem) talk about this event, please see our Write Lion 4 podcast 


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