Monday, 22 November 2010

24 Hour Plays: Theatrical Art

John Cleese

Last night saw the seventh annual 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic theatre, hosted this year by Monty Python extraordinaire John Cleese.

The concept for this evening is that group of actors and playwrights come together on Saturday at 10pm and work for 24 hours to conceive, write, rehearse, and perform six ten-minute plays. This is all in support of ‘New Voices’ to raise a significant amount of money to fund workshops for young aspiring actors. Artistic Director Kevin Spacey announced at the interval that 95 thousand pounds had been reached by contribution of silent auction bids and tickets. Tattinger, Ivan the Terrible (vodka), and Asia de Cuba were some of the more interesting subsidisers.

The first play was the most amusing and the audience was immediately responsive- in some instances the characters were cast as themselves with tongue and cheek allusions to their public personas. In this sketch Richard Armitage played the counter part to his on stage character, an obese forty year old man living in a run down apartment who had wished on a magic Christmas tree that he looked like Richard Armitage. Married to a well-rounded woman who had wished them into a large penthouse (suggested by the size of the small Christmas tree which had once been life-size in their ‘previous’ flat), this unlikely couple dance around and frolic with a new found zest. Each actor is asked to bring an inspirational prop, hence the appearance of a premature ornamental Christmas tree. Such clever gestures exemplified the creativity of the writers, some of which were more interesting than others.

In the second act, Kelly Brook similarly was cast as herself in a performance which mimicked what the writer, Richard Curtis, had gone through the previous night: trying to find inspiration and write a play from scratch in a hotel room in the early hours of the morning. Highlights included Kelly promising the writer that she’d be very grateful if she was given some deep and meaningful lines which didn’t comprise of taking her clothes off, explaining life was hard and that as a pretty girl she only ever had the best looking men in the room chatting her up and so being given the least confidence by result of their arrogance on top of the hatred of the other girls impending. She wanted to be taken seriously. Much to the appreciation of everyone in the room she took off her top as a method of persuasion to seek her desired role and did not disappoint. Curtis, renowned for Four Weddings and a Funeral, and sitcoms Mr Bean and Blackadder, also used this opportunity to slate Sienna Miller and Dr Who star David Tennant who dropped out the cast last minute, so leaving them with a ‘rubbish’ group of actors including Asda-advertising Ralph Little who naturally exited the stage by tapping his pocket full of change.

John Cleese took the stage between each performance and used memoirs of his mother to entertain the audience, a bitter woman living in Weston super Mare who had no longer wanted to live until Cleese, true to his dark humour, suggested sending over a small man he knew who lived in Fulham who could finish her off. This recalls the sentiments of his character Basil Fawlty who would quite like to be rid of the woman in his life, Sibyl. Nor were the German jokes amiss; only to hear Cleese's voice live and see his stiff goose-like walk only metres away was something spectacular- a privilege contributing to a sense of personal completion after years of following his career.   

The 25th Hour spent at the after party at St Martin’s Lane hotel was a great finale to the weekend but waking up on Monday morning was less enjoyable. As a friend once said,

It is usually a dream when you wake up remembering seeing Kelly Brook in her underwear. Not this time.’

Kelly Brook

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