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A triple, tiny tour-de-force linked by the desert


Review by Paul Nelson

I OFTEN wonder if people get bored by me constantly batting on about the delights of the London Fringe theatres.

Well, at the height of the tourist season, I would ask them, apart from extremely long running and by now, tired, musicals, what they can offer to attract the visitor or citizen that can compare.

Proof, if I ever needed to go to the Old Bailey and swear an oath, comes yet again from the Union Theatre. Whether it is an in-house presentation or a visiting production company, this tiny playhouse manages to give more than value for money.

For example, at present there is a bill of three one-act plays under the generic title of A Night In The Desert.

This triple, tiny, tour-de-force, is one of the most interesting evenings, and entertaining to boot, that I have seen for some time. I do not know nor recognise any of the writers, though I have seen a couple of the performers before, but I suspect that within a fairly short time they will all be dress circle as opposed to household, names.

Tender Eyes is a very delicate re-telling of the Old Testament related events involving Jacob, Leah and Rachel. A truly desert play.

What the Bible doesn't say is remedied in this piece which dramatically offers a realistic and romantic purpose to the related sequence of events that makes not only sense, but an intriguing playlet. It is directed by the author and is a gem.

Rushing into shrieking comedy, the evening continues with General Schwarzpoot Hunts Pink Tigers in the Sahara Desert. This is an all too believable encounter between a GI marine and a displaced deserter from the Iraqi army (pictured above).

Fear from both sides becomes an enjoyment of each other's escapist dreams, aided by the odd spliff, and after descending delightfully into rap, which I have to say is a house shaking event, the play ends on a serious note. We all ultimately react atavistically. It is about isolation in the desert and clutching at straws. Another gem.

The third play, On Sundays, is a surreal delight.

This play depicts another type of desert, that of desolation. At the seaside, a man ogles the couples, in particular the women.

The one he really goes for is unattainable, untouchable, and unreachable. She, however, has her own demons to conquer.

As the years go by, the unrequited and the unattainable naturally grow older until the time comes when the unattainable is freed by her own hand. Alas, it is too late. The unrequited is no more.

Quite rightly, in my opinion, this play is kept until last. It is funny, sad and moving and holds its message as strongly as do the other two plays, though with the added ingredient of making you think as you leave the theatre to go off into the night.

Now for the reckoning. All three plays are acted with supreme confidence by a cast so sure of their material that you really have to ask yourself, which came first, the play or the performance?

Both meld into a glorious theatrical event, and make me, for one, rejoice that the theatre is alive and thriving if only you know where to find it.
Well, that is why Indielondon is here.

Go or regret it. All performers and plays are more than memorable.

A Night in the Desert, 3 UK premieres. Designed by Penelope Challen, Lighting Designer Maria Christina Thanasoula, Sound Stephen Guy Daltry, Co-Costume designer Vanessa Frank, Choreographer (On Sundays) Francois Testory, Puppet Master Mervyn Millar.
Tender Eyes by Michael Aharoni, Directed by the author, WITH: Christopher Kouros (Jacob), Nicola Welburn (Leah), Siren Turkesh (Rachel).
General Schwartzpoot Hunts Pink Tigers in the Sahara Desert by Josef Mundy, translated by Adi Drori and Ariella Eshed, Directed by Ariella Eshed, WITH: Alex Falk (Iraqi Prisoner), Kevin Golding (American Marine).
On Sundays by Lynne Alvarez. Directed by Dale Heinen, WITH: James Bellorini (Jules), Pascale Gillet (Sylvia), Emilie Feron (The Beast).

Produced and Presented by Ocotillo Theatre Company at The Union Theatre, Union Street, Southwark, London SE1. Tickets 020 7261 9876.

Picture shows Alex Falk (Iraqi soldier) and Kevin N Golding (US Marine) in a scene from General Schwarzpoot Hunts Pink Tigers in the Sahara Desert. It was kindly supplied by Stagephoto.co.uk

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