Ignite Theatre Lights Up Social and Community Issues

Number 12 in Timms Times — a blogger’s view from 2014

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Ignite Theatre, in its promising debut production, shows courage, insight, skill, and dedication in bringing social issues into drama. Director Mark Lloyd steered a high-quality and well-rehearsed cast through two one-act plays.

Dear Mother, by Mark Jones, is the story of a World War I soldier’s journey from playing soldiers as a boy to the British Army’s bloodiest-ever battle — the Somme. Thomas as a boy was played with impressive maturity and confidence by Tom King, and with moving conviction as a man by Josh Whisson. The stream-of-consciousness acting out of a friend’s death was the main highlight of Whisson’s performance. Thomas’s mother (Clarissa Ellis) – recipient of the letters which form the play’s text – reacted superbly with dignified sadness in reading Thomas’s last letter. This was one he had carried in case he was killed.

Altogether, the cast, set, sound and lighting brought out the best in the Dear Mother script, and met the challenges of the subject well. However, the script relied, effectively, on monologue throughout, which weakened the story line and the drama. In particular, the story of Thomas signing up for the army – written at great length to his mother months after the event – would have been much more dramatic as dialogue between them.

The second play, The Railway Bridge Committee by Eleanor Wallace, is an interesting political allegory played out by three tramps. Mr Darcy (Ben Perkins) is stereotypically Conservative, exploiting who he can and spending money he doesn’t have. Quentin is a ‘yes-man’ and idealistic dreamer, satirising Lib Dems, whose constant support of Mr Darcy give him a permanent majority when there are three voters. Leonardo (Mark Lloyd) is the only worker of the three, and his begging, and selling of the Big Issue provides their only income – which Mr D overspends on a prostitute, Mavis (Clarissa Ellis, who also assisted in directing the play). All the cast performed with gusto and insight.

The story is ironically circular, with some really good humour at times, and a few flat points. It works as a symbol of the current political situation, but less so as a diatribe against capitalism and oppression of the working class. Leonardo’s sudden monologue against society in general smacks of the author’s voice rather than his. It also raises again why in his position, a relatively self-sufficient man rails against distant outsiders rather than the two who mercilessly exploit him.

Ignite Theatre’s production was at the King’s Theatre, Gloucester, 8-11 October. I look forward with pleasure to their next one.

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