Review: Three Unrelated Short Plays at Theatre N16

Three Unrelated Short Plays is the debut production from Blank Tin Productions, and does exactly what it says on the… er, tin: three 20-minute plays, none of which bears any relation to the others – or indeed to reality as we know it. The press release promises weird and unexpected, and that’s exactly what we get.

In The Stuttgart Syndrome, John (James Messer) wakes up tied to a chair in a basement, next to Mickey (Dan Thorn), who seems worryingly chilled about the whole situation – possibly because his grandfather was an escapologist, or maybe just because he doesn’t actually know what kidnapping means. One Scotch sees friends Tony, Danny and Jack (James McClelland, Abe Buckoke and Will Jeffs) play a drinking game that will supposedly allow them to meet God, but it turns out (s)he isn’t quite what they were expecting… and that’s not the only surprise of the night. And in Who the Fuck is Dr Deathzo? mild-mannered Kevin (Jimmy Roye Dunne) learns that he’s got an evil alter-ego who only comes out on Saturday nights – and as if that’s not bad enough, now superhero Assorted Props Girl (Elle Banstead-Salim) and her sidekick Tape Boy are out to vanquish him.

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Photo credit: Oliver Malam
So. You get the idea. Nothing here makes any sense, but then it’s not really supposed to. Writer James Messer has let his imagination run off pretty much wherever it wants to go, resulting in a show that’s entirely bonkers and very very silly – but hey, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of silliness every now and then?

Each play has a different director (Will Jeffs, Oliver Malam and James Messer each taking a turn) and cast to keep things fresh, and as promised in the title each is a completely separate, self-contained story. Personally, I found the middle piece, One Scotch, to be the strongest, possibly because despite being quite as mad as the others, the plot felt just a touch more coherent, and I loved the twist in the tale. But there’s something here for everyone (unless you’re not a fan of random), and it’s likely everyone will have their own favourite, for different reasons.

The show has a charming, homemade feel, with frequent references to the limitations imposed by a fringe theatre budget. And far from making excuses, it revels in its own chaos; the transitions between plays are part of the fun, with cardboard signs imploring us to look at the guy juggling, or dancing, rather than the frantic scene changing going on behind him.

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Photo credit: Oliver Malam
The cast display a similar exuberance, throwing themselves into their assorted roles with an enthusiasm that borders at times on the hyperactive. Most appear in more than one play, with Blank Tin co-founder Elle Banstead-Salim popping up in all three as a selection of increasingly feisty women; as the only female cast member it’s down to her to bring all the girl power, and she doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge.

As a reviewer, I often feel I have to find the meaning in every play I see, so it’s a rare pleasure to see a show that isn’t trying to tell us anything. Blank Tin just want to have a good time, and to make sure the audience have fun too. And in that they definitely succeed. It’s a surreal night out, don’t get me wrong – but it’s also a thoroughly entertaining escape from reality, and that’s something we could all do with these days.

Three Unrelated Short Plays is at Theatre N16 until 16th February.

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