The start of ‘The Footmonster’ – photo © Julian Swainson
The Garage is a comfortable and friendly small venue with a growing reputation for hosting enjoyable theatre.
This evening I went to see the Cruyff Turn Theatre Company perform two short plays, both quirkily written and performed by UEA drama students.
The first play The Footmonster by Will Owen featured Joseph Hollas as a young child in bed, with Shola Tinabu as his Mum. The first jolt comes when Hollas speaks in a childs voice, to the great amusement of audience members whom I suspect may be known to him. This is an unusual mother-child dialogue. One minute she is cooing over her little darling, another she is shouting at him for eating all her biscuits. Tucking him into bed for sleep she tells him to tuck his feet in so the Footmonster does not eat them. He challenges her preconceptions of why a monster might want feet to eat.
No sooner has she left than the Footmonster (Jacob Bell) arrives. They have a lengthy discussion about the motivation for being a Footmonster. The cast is completed by narrator Tommaso Manca Di Villahermosa who pops in towards the end to draw a close to a drama that gets more surreal with every passing minute.
The quirky writing builds characters that allow us to consider the role of a child, and the question of who leads who in parent-child relationships. The characters seem initially very odd, but the actors maintain the integrity of the characters throughout rather than playing up to the laughter from the audience. This works well and creates a charming and innovative drama which will please any audience.
The second work is Narration written by Shola Tinabu. We start at an awards ceremony, where the writer Cameron Haddish (CJ Jones) is being presented with an achievement recognition by a gushing announcer (Jemma Gorton). But he is taken from the stage after collapsing. We then come to an apparently unrelated scene where ‘Narrator’ Jacob Bell sitting at a desk describes the lives of three diverse young individuals sitting spotlit on the stage. Each have their lives and problems elucidated.
The Narrator remains on stage throughout as we look at scenes where each of the three interact with family and friends whilst being vexed by the voice of The Narrator, who is unheard by anyone else.
The three ‘narrated’ characters are all skilled at building up a convincing picture of the life of a troubled young adult, albeit each from very different backgrounds. Jeremy is played by Will Owen, as a rather geeky young loner. Olivia (Alice Beatie) is from an outrageously hippy family (are you sure you don’t want a smoke before you go out?) of her Mum (Amelia White) and aunt (Ellena Katya). Elliot is a young man set to take over the family business, but is increasingly sidelined as he is troubled by The Narrator.
Each of the three struggle with important friend and family relationships as nobody seems to understand their problem with the ever present Narrator. Then the three find themselves together, by chance, and hatch a plot to kill the voice that vexes them.
This is a clever bit of writing which turns around some theatre conventions while building several credible and engaging characters, as well as one or two more bizarre ones. The three leads are all very good, as is the rather creepy Narrator himself. The glimpses into their various hinterlands are both amusing and easy to identify with.
Together these two short plays show a theatre company worth watching out for. Their presentation is competent and confident, the writing is good and both works are poignant as well as funny.
Cruyff Turn Theatre Company
In 1974, Johan Cruyff shocked the world with his imagination and originality when he performed the first ever ‘Cruyff turn’. Inspired by Cruyff’s creativity, Cruyff Turn Theatre Company was created to share the artistic nature of this simply effective skill move with the world of the theatre.
Cruyff Turn are a theatre company based in Norfolk and Scotland and everywhere in-between. They aim to bring interesting stories to the masses and have a bit of fun along the way.
The company took a sell-out show called ‘Mr Nice Guy’ to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 and enjoyed great receptions. The Scottish and worldwide audiences that attend the Edinburgh Fringe really connected with their first ever show and this inspired them to go on and create even more.
In the future, Cruyff Turn Theatre Company are planning a return to the Edinburgh Fringe 2020 with a show called ‘Dugs’ which has already been well received at Minotaur Theatre Company’s Shorts Festival 2019.
© Julian Swainson 2020