Tuesday, November 29

Spectra – Etcetera Theatre

I was in for a double treat this morning when I saw the collaboration of RoL ‘N Productions and Imposters Collaboration at the Etcetera Theatre.  Liane Grant and Olja Mladjenovic have brought their theatre companies together to showcase two short pieces, ‘Wines from Santorini’ and ‘Chance of Rain’ at the Etcetera Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

First up was ‘Wines from Santorini’, this two-hander follows the lives of Caz (Liane Grant) and Ali (Olja Mladjenovic) who were childhood friends who meet again when Caz is due to marry.  As Caz is getting ready to move house, they are surrounded with packing boxes and Ali has thoughtfully brought a bottle of wine along with her.  As they reminisce over old times and mutual friends from years ago, the unspoken hostility that is bubbling away, gradually works its way to the surface and into the conversation.

Why is it that weddings frequently cause breakdowns between family or friends, I wonder?  Written by Mladjenovic, this question is analysed in the context of loyalty and misunderstanding.  Both friends have allowed resentments to build and Grant, and Mladjenovic play the role of hurt childhood friends well, but there is a feeling that there needs to be a little more depth to the storyline.  As the play progresses, and the angst grows there is a verbal parry with accusations flying around of neglecting the friendship.  Before this section of the play, it would have been nice to have added some more information about the characters.  There is talk of Ali’s mother and father, but this was mentioned as an aside, and maybe we would have felt a little more connected if the back story to the characters was delved into a little more at the beginning.  As the ending is connected to this, it would have created a deeper, more emotional play. 

As a first play, Mladjenovic has done well to direct and create two likeable characters, with a story that is easily relatable.  With Mladjenovic and Grant turning in two very good performances, it is worth continuing to develop this piece as a work-in-progress and offer it again, as I am sure that this interesting reflection on friendships old and new can only improve with further work.

The second offering is a ‘Chance of Rain’, a political drama also focusing on women in the workplace and how they differ in life and in their viewpoints on political and moral issues.  With a set reflecting an office environment, the scene is set to witness a confrontation between Lucy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Olja Mladjenovic), and the MP for Great Yarmouth, Beatrice Awbrey (Liane Grant) backed up by her fellow co-workers.  The group initially tested the Chancellor with a deception, to see what her values are and to get a feel for what her plans will be, if she should become Prime Minister at the upcoming vote.

The plot centres around climate change and its impact on certain areas in the UK. This change in the weather is already seeing people displaced from their homes in their community, and loss of life due to flooding.  MP Beatrice Awbrey is determined to see her work representing the Green Party and her community continue.  Will she be enticed by the carrot that is being dangled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

This is a meaty piece of theatre, packed full of content which does not hold back in lending its theatrical voice to the climate debate.  The whole cast (Emily Panes, Julie Ross, Olja Mladjenovic, Oyinka Yusuff and Liane Grant) communicated their enthusiasm for the piece and their enjoyment was reflected in their excellent performances.  The only slight tweak I would make is to make the ending slightly more forceful.

Overall, both pieces were interesting, with the second ensemble piece seeming to be a little further on in its development.

This show has now finished its run, but I am sure we will be hearing more from these two theatre companies.  To book more Camden Fringe Festival shows go to https://www.camdenfringe.com/.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 16th August 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★