Theatre Review: Liverpool Fringe 24 Hour Play Festival

Held at Lark Lane Community Centre, the 24 Hour Play Festival acts as a preview of sorts, as well as serving as a fundraiser, for the main Liverpool Fringe Festival this June.

The concept is very unique: the previous night, a number of actors, directors and writers all met to begin putting together, entirely from scratch, a range of unique plays. This included composing a script, rehearsing the lines, practicing the actions and more. Consider the work that goes into building a play, and the time it takes to have it ready to be performed live, and you’ll see why the challenge of completing all of this within 24 hours is so fascinating. In addition, each performer brought along a specific prop to be incorporated into their respective stories, which increases the creativity of the scriptwriters even more. All of them had a light-hearted feel, and each lasted around 10-15 minutes.

Five stories were performed in all, from the cosy surroundings of Lark Lane Community Centre. The first was titled Murder On The Number 68 Bus, written by Irene Stewart of Candle Light Productions Theatre Company, and directed by Allis Lord. The premise was that a former star turned director named Michael Bennet (Robbie James Williamson) wishes to create his own play with the 68 title noted there, but his casting call is a struggle due to conflicts with Gemma (Danielle Britton), Carter (Paul German) and the over-dramatic, Liverpool-is-beneath-her Pandora Bloomfield (Ellen Buckley).

The second story was named The World In His Hands, written by John Smith of Goats Milk Theatre Company and directed by John Mc. Here, Dillon (Christopher Ward) was celebrating his birthday with his friend Peter (Mark G Porter) by visiting an antiques store, but Millie (Siobhan Wedgeworth) warns them not to touch a globe that is used by Dingmar (Jordan Hubert) to demonstrate his telepathic powers, with the consequences of such actions being potentially tragic.

Smoke and Mirrors, written by Marjorie H. Morgan of Catfish Theatre Company and directed by Steff Hudson, was the third play. The situation here was of a speed dating event, with the MC Kerry (Nathan Benjamin) and a stuck-up, unpleasant selfie poser Cassie (Emil McGlynn) both finding the event unsuccessful, but with low-confidence singer Tony (Michael Twigg) and renowned movie star Beth (Em J Carter) establishing a connection with one another.

After intermission, we had The Bridge, written by Donna Golding of Rocket Rams Theatre Company and directed by Meg McFarlane. This played host to a tourist committee meeting, with chair Frank Sanderson (Benjamin Keith) becoming increasingly frustrated by his team members Gina Thompson (Lisa Buckley) and James Huntley (Sam Haworth). I thought this was the funniest play of the evening, due to the deliberately ludicrous nature of the main idea about a 135-mile bridge being built between Liverpool and Dublin, and the clever localised in-jokes that came from there.

Last of all, They Wouldn’t Wear That At Aintree was written by Andy Pilkington of Unicorns R’Us Theatre Company and directed by Floyd Kennedy. This was a family affair, with father Tony (Sean McGlynn), nan Mary (Geraldine Moloney Judge) and daughters Carla (Carly Grimes) and Annie (Hollie Murphy) discussing how they could flog their various items of junk found at home, before reminiscing about Tony’s late wife, who had passed away eight years prior.

Given the extremely short timeframe and the need to pick up everything as soon as possible, all involved did a fantastic job. Each play offered something different, ranging from full-on hilarity to the conveying of serious messages, and there were very few moments where lines were forgotten or stumbled over, impressive given that these scripts were written and had to be learned so quickly. The Fringe Festival itself offers a wide variety of stories that are fleshed out into full performances, and I wouldn’t be surprised a few of these brought to complete fruition this summer.

In short, the Liverpool Fringe 24 Hour Play Festival was a big success, and a fun preview of the main Fringe Festival this June.