Review by Hannah Knowles
SINCE their foundation, six years ago, Hydrae Productions have
had the laudable principle of showcasing short plays by up-and-coming
writers, in co-operation with the Script2Stage group.
Their latest production, Conflicts Of Interest,
at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, is a collection of six plays which,
as the title suggests, are united by their presentation of people
failing to see eye to eye.
Crucially, however, what the plays are missing is just that:
any sense of conflict. The performances lack enough conviction
to persuade the audience that the characters’ conversations
matter enough for what we are witnessing to be anything other
than petty quibbling born of ennui, rather than any genuine conflicts
The production opens with Under A Grapefruit Sky,
in which Bill, a helpline worker, receives a call from his brother
,Tony, who has undergone a sex change to become his sister, Tina.
Predictably, the man trained to resist passing judgement on his
callers refuses to accept his transsexual brother, even advising
him/her to go ahead with the overdose that Tina has told Bill
she plans to take.
Stevie Harris plays Tony/Tina with intelligence and restraint,
never falling into the clichés of playing a drunken character,
and despite the script’s potential to tip into melodrama,
handles the role with sensitivity.
Brian Naylor is less successful as Bill, exercising too much
restraint for a character who is supposed to be angered and dismayed
by his brother’s transformation.
The part doesn’t require histrionics, but Bill’s
tone is too disinterested for his harsh words to be believable.
At times, the play makes some interesting comments on the human
proclivity to judge, and the hypocrisy of those who claim to do
otherwise, but incessant weak jokes and some awkward, self-conscious
acting reduce the impact of these moments.
Similar problems dog Tat, which amounts to little
more than a poor man’s Withnail and I. It shares the latter’s
odd-couple set-up, but lacks the wit and pathos that made Withnail
so painfully brilliant to watch.
The two down-and-outs make frequent allusions to famous pairings
- Holmes & Watson, Batman & Robin etc. - but these only
serve to emphasise the striking lack of chemistry between the
two men; chemistry that made the partnerships they refer to so
This is possibly a consequence of opening night nerves, as, individually,
both actors seem perfectly capable, if a little shaky with their
The third short, Anyway,
proves much more satisfactory. The premise is a discussion between
three women about the intimate details of their private lives.
The three actresses turn in lively performances, handling the
humour with confidence and responding to each other with a natural
rapport that is distinctly lacking in the acting throughout the
rest of this production.
With a mixture of amusement and embarrassment, one of the women
describes how a man she had sex with began to recite tongue twisters
Baffled, but not to be outdone, she joins in with increasingly
complex responses, until they are caught in a mid-coitus competition
of verbal dexterity, which lands the guy in hospital, bringing
a whole new meaning to the old cunning linguists gag.
Given that this is, by far, the strongest of the plays, it is
a mystery why it is also by far the shortest. The actresses are
barely given the chance to get into their stride before the play
is brought to an abrupt halt. Both they and the audience deserve
Instead, we have to wait for The Last Supper
to be given something substantial to sink our teeth into.
A tale of deception and intrigue, The Last Supper is
set in the inner circle of a tyrannical regime, with a femme-fatale
and her lover seeking to overthrow the despotic leader of their
land by cooking him the eponymous final meal doused in an unhealthy
helping of poison.
The tension steadily escalates through the jumpiness of Hannah
Kelly’s seductress, Sonia, and the game playing between
her and Zyg Staniaszek, as the charismatic leader she plots to
As they circle each other, both physically and verbally, the
audience is left guessing which character is one step ahead.
However, just as the conversation becomes potentially as lethal
as a game of Russian roulette, the plot is pushed too swiftly
into a hasty denouement. One twist too many results in a flat
conclusion, utterly lacking the dramatic power of the rest of
Most of the production’s flaws can be attributed to scripts
that do not quite cut it as short plays, and come off more like
teasers for full-length productions.
They simply don’t carry enough weight to be credible as
serious drama, nor are they witty enough to pass as comedy; instead,
they occupy an unhappy no-man’s land, somewhere between
Ultimately, the only serious conflict of interest I experienced
watching this production was whether to see it through to its
conclusion ,or go home to my bed. Sadly, even that wasn’t
much of a contest.
Cast: Stevie Harris, Brian Naylor, Beth Scott Hewlett,
Zai Swan, Phil Gerrard, Nick Wharf, Rhona Danil, Laura Kearsey,
Sarah Peach, Peter Dombi/ Peter vanDoorn, Hannah Kelly, Zyg Staniaszek,
David Lenson, Tom McCall, Rebecca Peyton.
Directors: Eric Young, Zyg Staniaszek, Steve Tyrrell, Elgiva Field,
Writers: Eddie Coleman, Gerald Kells, Lorraine McCann, Michael
Stirling, Joanne Hildon, Gerald Kells.