A Play in 24 Hours Phase Five at Theatre Utopia: From concept to performance in a dayCultureTheatre
At a time when a new American president is taking drastic steps to keep people out, the hordes are shouting to be heard on social media, and Charlie Brooker’s dystopian Black Mirror series is attracting a multi-million strong following, Phase Five really hits its mark.
To put this achievement into perspective, the play was taken from concept to performance in just 24 hours. Presented by Misprint Theatre and created by a group of actors, writers and directors, most of whom hadn’t met before, this was an ambitious project that could very easily have been a disaster.
Phase Five is a dense, dialogue-driven piece set in a nightmarish future. Five wretches are held hostage by a clinical voiceover (perfectly delivered by director Natasha Brown), which instructs them to complete certain tasks in order to “progress”. We come to understand that a new society is being formed and the existing population must prove their worth or face “expulsion”, as the voiceover euphemistically puts it.
Misprint Theatre’s Jamal Chong has overseen the creation of a collaborative script that asks pertinent questions about human worth, morality and responsibility. Workshopping from the entire group, effective direction from Brown and solid performances have shaped it into a weighty exploration of humanity versus pragmatism.
The five actors do a fantastic job of realising the distinctive, often clashing characters who hold one another’s lives in their hands. They ensure that the pervasive bleakness of the play is offset by little moments of comedy and of warmth. Despite having met one another only the day before, the chemistry between them is palpable.
We caught up with Jamal afterwards to get his take on the finished product. Was it anything like he originally envisaged? “We didn’t know what it would be about. I left it open for the cast. We thought, “What’s on people’s minds?” We had two- to three-hour conversations, a lot about what’s happening in the world: social media, politics. I’m not good at writing preachy; there is a message here but it’s hidden in the entertainment.” And what’s next? “We want to make it an hour, turn it into a proper play, maybe tour it around.”
Having achieved so much in just 24 meagre hours, it will be exciting to see how the ensemble transforms their show now that an imposing time limit isn’t a factor.
A Play in 24 Hours: Phase Five was a one-off performance at Theatre Utopia on 28th January 2017 for further information about Theatre Utopia, visit here.
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