Bare E-ssentials: 16th Edition at Encompass Online
Live on video, the 16th edition of Encompass Productions’ Bare E-ssentials presents four innovative short plays, hosted by Liam Fleming. Performed in the actors’ homes and on laptops, the show is theatre at its most basic.
A smart, perceptive tongue-in-cheek commentary on our tech dominated world, Ken Preuss’s Every Seven Minutes uses dark humour to imagine our collective psyches as slaves to machines that dictate our destiny, having rendered humanity mindless and callous. In charge of global events that happen at seven-minute intervals, a bureaucrat instructs a recruit, who is horrified by the heartlessness of “pushing buttons, toying with people’s lives” and her colleague’s coldness – as, using imaginative, silly props, he casually obeys the “machine” and kills people with a tap of the keyboard. “It’s just a job,” he rationalises – until he zaps himself.
Spread (Robbie Knox) is a wry, insightful skit about siblings pondering the wording for an 87-year-old relative’s obituary. Though she was hit by a train and partially devoured by a goat, though she had a full life, they ruminate about summing her up as a maker of good snacks. The meaningful trajectory of a life contrasts with the dice roll of of whoever handles the defining of their time on earth – a reminder that humans are rarely prepared for mortality.
A surprisingly viscerally scary piece, the ingenious comedic sketch Spud (Robert Wallis) involves a Saturday Night Live-style dialogue between two potatoes in foil who gradually realise they are about to be eaten. As they contemplate life’s meaning, they wonder why they have souls and yet come to this fate. As if only recently conscious, they become aware that they have no arms or legs. While it is ridiculous that vegetables might speak, the skit illustrates that we are capable of empathy – even for a potato.
The mind of a psychotic pyromaniac is skilfully and cleverly explored in Keith Gow’s Like a House on Fire, a monologue by a woman with a lifelong obsession with burning things. Describing her addiction’s evolution, she laments that the fire brigade usually arrives too soon to satisfy her “thrill” of watching a house disintegrate in flames. Though at times “the sound of sirens gets me off” – as getting a reaction gratifies her – ignition, combustion and destruction are her greatest delight.
Fun and witty, this 16th edition of Bare E-ssentials features a collection of intriguing, thought-provoking and cutting-edge writing.
Image: Rachel Nott in Like a House on Fire by Keith Gow