New Writing with Bare Essentials:
Encompass are a London-based theatre production company. Their Bare Essentials theatre nights take place in the Seven Dials Club, a venue tucked away behind a plain façade in Earlham Street right in the heart of Covent Garden.
Bare Essentials is one of London’s best reviewed new writing nights. Over the course of an evening they put on six pieces of well rehearsed, polished ‘micro theatre’ handpicked from a host of submissions, which are written by playwrights from all the around the world. A brilliant innovative platform, engaging and developing new up and coming artists and providing a stage for writers, directors and actors alike.
Unlike most theatre, it takes place in a very ordinary room, laid out with rows of seats, one might easily be forgiven for presuming to be attending a meeting or lecture. And as producer Liam Fleming, who also was our very entertaining host pointed out, as the name Bare Essentials suggests, the set consisting of 2 tables and 2 chairs was indeed minimal. So without all the trimmings of traditional theatre, it was the job of the actors and writers to captivate and delight its audience, and they did. I was remarkably impressed with the high standard of the writing, direction and performance.
The theme of the plays for of the plays for the evening was ‘New Beginnings’. Opening the show was Stuck by written Scott Mullen, an American playwright and directed by Charlotte Donachie, a quirky and charming two-hander. Zoe, played with a naïve charm by Liz McMullen is a waitress at the café directly across the road from a US airport; she has been watching Palmer, convincingly portrayed by James Ushworth, a soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan. He has been sitting in the airport waiting lounge for the past 59 days. With curiosity and fascination, Zoe finally approaches him and the story unfolds. This is a humourous and remarkably touching tale of two lost souls searching for an escape, companionship and fulfilment.
Raghead by Tom Coash, directed by Alice Kornitzer cleverly examined the preconceptions held in society when a woman wears a headscarf. Beautifully performed by Charlotte Peak as Sarah and Eddie Usher as Nick who meet on a blind date. Was there any hope for this relationship or was it a non-starter? Perfectly pitched piece within the present sociopolitical climate.
Radio Foreplay was written by Lucy Kaufman and directed by the theatre’s producer Liam Flemming. This was an amusing one-man show set in a Radio 4 office, where we meet Producer Robin (Alexander Pankhurst) talking on the phone about a potential production; it provides a wry look at the use of profanities and the social norms of the middle classes.
The second half continued to entertain. Blue Tent by Gino Delorio, two men say their farewells, a tender story of friendship. Almost Connect was an enjoyable four-hander written by Thomas Pierce which used some clever theatrical devices to try and engineer and play cupid to a couple in a coffee shop. And finally Two Tales by J P Cooper, a complex look at the end of the world through the eyes of a series of couples, with some great performances from actors Louise Beresford and Duncan Mason.
Bare Essentials offers a great evening out in central London with access to a huge source of extraordinary new talent, and all for a bargain £10. I’m sure to be returning.
Bare Essentials at the Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden. The venue is located opposite the Donmar Warehouse at 42 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LA.