Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre is turning forty, can you believe? And it doesn’t look a day over twenty-one. Since life is meant to begin at forty, the theatre has themed this year’s Script Slam around anniversary material symbols – paper for one year and ruby for forty, and so on. If, like I was, you are unfamiliar with the Script Slam palaver, it’s essentially a competition stretched over three nights, each night hosting three short and original plays from local playwrights. À la X Factor, each play is then critiqued by a panel of theatrical aficionados who ponder its profundity and its extendibility before the audience decides via show of hands. And it’s all very casual – I mean, the actors have their scripts in the hands, for one thing. However, I should say that the acting is consistently excellent from Sara Harris-Davies, Gareth Milton and Hugh Thomas – all of whom interpreted the pieces with accomplished panache.
The panellists in question on the first night were: Sherman Cymru’s Associate Director, Roisin McBrinn; Associate Producer of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Michael Salmon; and Wales Arts Review’s Senior Editor, Gary Raymond. Every night also boasts a different director and Tuesday’s director was the brilliant Matthew Bulgo, one sixth of Dirty Protest, who you may have seen in I’m With The Band. Well, I did, anyway.
The first play of three was Neil Walden’s GM – a quaint piece about a jeweller in search of the gold he shall use for the Queen’s 40th anniversary wedding ring. It was humorous in places and the characters well-honed but I could source no meaning behind it. Perhaps it was simply following the brief. This led it to receive from the audience no favouring hands. But who knows? I could’ve misinterpreted it completely. Walden’s no stranger to misunderstanding of his work. He once won an award for horror writing for what he thought was a comedy.
The second came from previous Script Slam winner, Neil Bebber. He brought us Together – not literally; that’s its name. This play brought us a wonderfully detestable couple who had been bound to each other for forty years and couldn’t wait until death could finally part them. Through acerbic remarks to and fro, we discover the sexual escapades and liaisons each party had indulged in throughout their relationship. It’s a savagely funny play with echoes of Pinter-esque wit but a truly original tone. My hand thrust up for this one. In the air, of course.
And the last was A Very Modern Office by David Harris – a delightful, faintly absurdist story about change and its effects. A man goes about his business in what he believes to be his lifelong office where he works with paper and paper alone. At least until a young temp visits. He then discovers the world outside his office is rapidly changing – his office is now a storage room, paper is dying a dreadful death and books are being listened to instead of read. Quite a thought-provoking one, this; made me think quite severely about paper.
‘And the winner?’ you ask. Neil Bebber’s Together took the, erm… Well, the accolade. There wasn’t actually a prize, unfortunately. But there we are. Something for the CV, eh?