Sunday, December 3

Boss News Plays (Thursday) – Royal Court Studio

Boss New Play’s is a three night long annual showcase from some of the most fantastic and ambitious artists in Liverpool who are best known as the ‘Lantern Writers’. This group are an eclectic mix of semi-professional and amateur writers, and tonight’s show brings us three new pieces of work at varying stages of development.

In the first slice of this showcase, we see ‘Jigsaw’ live on stage, which has been written by Mark Davoren. In this Kafkaesque drama, two couples meet over dinner for what seems to be a fairly normal ‘life catch-up’ event. One couple, made up of Harry (Conor Burns) and Emily (Jennifer Morrow), look like the perfect pair with well-paid jobs and two children, they really seem to have it all. In contrast, Leah (Faye Draper) and Pete (Christopher James) are struggling and with literally an ocean between them and the strains of IVF treatment. Over a bottle of wine, some past trauma’s arise and the atmosphere goes from obnoxiously glorious to painstakingly uncomfortable in the blink of an eye. 

It cannot be denied that this piece will stop you in your tracks. The writing is very clever in that it brings the audience on a journey. We get to know the characters in the first instance and can sense there is something brewing in this interesting scene but the revelations which arise are still so unexpected. The writing appears to be well established and it is clear that Mark has gone to great lengths with this piece to bring meaning, intensity and quality to his words. In saying that, the delivery of this piece is also crucial to its success and these four gifted actors had no difficulty in their talented execution of ‘Jigsaw’. I particularly enjoyed seeing the turmoil portrayed by the actors who were ‘stuck in the middle’. It was almost like I was right there with them in how they were feeling.

Tom Martin has demonstrated true skill and artistry in his direction, bringing this sensitive and difficult piece to life. His use of lighting, music, height and sound all blend together to create an interesting and diverse piece of theatre. The contrasts between the trivial party atmosphere and the fragile reality is almost too difficult to stomach at times.

Having seen some of Mark’s writing before, I was particularly impressed by this brave piece which isn’t afraid to dig deep and share the shock factor. ‘Jigsaw’ puts forward topics and themes that made you feel awkward, angry and frustrated which is exceptionally powerful. This short play has a big future ahead.

As ‘jigsaw’ is a longer piece, it is entitled to a star rating from North West End and on this occasion, I have no doubt that it is worthy of ★★★★. Mark’s work is available via his website and YouTube channel Mark Davoren – YouTube where you can watch and like previously recorded material.

After the interval, we had the pleasure of watching the next piece entitled ‘Smeared’ which has been written by Donna Golding. I like the title of this piece as a starting point, and it wasn’t until I seen the set that I knew exactly where it was going! We meet Stella (Maria Paul) who is checking in for her dreaded hospital appointment. When she meets Mr Miller (Iain Barrie), Stella is less than impressed- and who can blame her! Things go from bad to worse for Stella with the introduction of Dr Charles (Robbie James Williamson), Nurse Finn (Karly Maguire) and student (Luke Morgan). I really enjoy seeing writing which focuses on something a little bit ‘different’ and Donna has undoubtedly done this as she creates humour, chaos and drama to a scene which some may never have seen before! The writing combined with talent like Maria Paul is a recipe for success and the audience were laughing from the get-go.

Big congrats to Margaret Connell on her direction of this piece, one of my favourite parts was the use of projector screen to highlight some realities and facts in contrast to this farcical and hilarious scene- a really nice touch that did not go unmissed. All round I think this piece works well in its length and the introduction of new characters bring new layers of comedy as the piece progresses.

The last piece was ‘Charity’ which has been written by Mari Lloyd. The story follows a young Liverpool lad who has been given a pretty impossible challenge in his new job working in the charity sector. All is not what it seems, and the word ‘charity’ starts to lose its meaning as this young lad, played by George Wilson, tries to find his way. The supporting actors, Sheila Jones, Joe Spoors and Hannah Kidman play diverse roles in creating a sense of chaos and difficulty for this “nice young man”. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Sheila Jones played an old woman, the writing is really funny and the acting very believable that you could really get on board with it and imagine this authentic moment. The director, Amber Buttery, has creatively developed this piece and brought out some charming humour that makes this show a very easy and enjoyable watch. You found yourself smiling because you knew what was coming and the overall outcome is very sweet and likable.

Similarly, to ‘smeared’, this piece is different and new in that it’s unlikely that you’ve seen a theatre piece about a someone working for a charity and knocking on doors. This is what is really wonderful about the ‘Lantern Writers’ and ‘Boss New Plays’, not only do they have the opportunity to showcase their talent and hard work, but the audience have the opportunity to see exciting, new theatre, fresh out the wrapper! Good luck to Lantern Writers for the next two nights as their showcase continues – I am sure they will both be just as inspiring as night one!

The two pieces after the interval don’t qualify for a star rating at present due to their short length, however we look forward to rating them in the future as they continue to develop.

Reviewer: Blathine Maguire

Reviewed: 4th November 2021