‘A Pro Of Nothing’ is a set of six plays performed in 120 minutes with 16 actors and five directors. Yes, we’re breathless at the end but there can be no complaints about the quality. This is a showcase of short drama by Andrew Allen, co-founder of Cast Iron Theatre, which demonstrates the consistency of his writing.
In each play a few actors quickly establish a scenario which is remorselessly unravelled with comedic or tragic effects. In ‘Watch Us Wreck The Mic’ two young women are swigging beer in a karaoke club when they are interrupted by a dull old woman. But she morphs into a swinger bathed in pathos. In ‘Dick Joke’ the focus is directly on the gag. A bunch of scriptwriters contest the effect of their politically incorrect joke. Who will be first to lose their job?
‘Last Supper’ explores the post-death scenario. Imagine being at the dinner table beside the pearly gates. You are a nobody stranded for eternity with the most famous and chatty deceased people. It could be hell. Or, spare a thought for Luke in ‘Joy’ who is the last remaining single man in the world. Even the dating agency is closing down. Tinder has a lot to answer for.
There is a Pinteresque chill to the two tragic plays both of which are superbly acted and directed. ‘Babble’ takes us to the bleak edges of a humanity inscribed within the rim of brutal regimes. A refugee is being hunted down, hiding in the shadows and his helpers are equally fearful. The device of having two protagonists speaking another language casts the audience as outsiders too. We do not understand the words but the meanings are clear.
‘Will Of The People’ is A Very British Coup meets fake news fused with the clicktivism of a populist leader. The tyranny of the majority might cost the PM his job and more. His advisor remains exquisitely polite and chilling throughout. He knows exactly how you should dress for an execution.
At the end of the night all 16 actors come on stage for collective applause. The sound and lighting effects also deserve recognition for being precise and on cue without ever distracting us.
The audience might, however, welcome a fuller curtain call after each play and a brushstroke of ceremony to the actors’ departure from the front of stage. During quiet parts in the plays, bar noise occasionally leaks into this back room theatre. But it’s hard to quibble because the Southern Belle is such a consistently friendly theatre venue – with food and drinks at pub prices.
This showcase is a tribute to Allen’s writing but it also marks Cast Iron Theatre’s fifth year of nurturing new writers, directors and actors. So, co-founders Andrew Allen and Michelle Donkin can be justifiably pleased with their contribution to local drama.
And ‘A Pro Of Nothing’ is a stonking good night of theatre!
Sweet Venues, Southern Belle, Friday 23rd March 2018
Words by Mike Aiken
Photo by Cast Iron Theatre