SCDA One Acts – Friday

Feb 25 2023 | By More

Strong opening trio

Church Hill Theatre: Fri 24/Sat 25 Feb 2023
Report by Thom Dibdin

The Edinburgh district round of the 2023 SCDA One Act Play Festival got off to a strong start up at the Church Hill Theatre on Friday night with a trio of plays that demonstrated the versatility of the competing amateur companies and the quality of their actors.

It must be said that the ‘festival’ description is an apt one, as the house was full of slightly partisan followers of each competing company’s offerings – to the point of cheering their favourites, but never so rude as to boo the competition. And with a public adjudication due at the end of the night, there was to be plenty to cheer about.

Alicia Smith, Pablo Lopez Sanchez-Matas and Susan Duffy in The Infernal Serpent. Pic: Ailie Henderson

The evening opened with The Infernal Serpent by David Gerow, performed by Leitheatre (Kirkgate). This relatively new three-hander was written for A Play A Pie and a Pint at Glasgow’s Oran Mor where it was first performed last May, 2022.

It seems that the PPP format – scripts which run at just under an hour with small casts and simple sets – is perfectly suited to the needs of the One Act Festival. They also have the benefit often having a contemporary feel.

That is certainly the case here, with well-turned performances from Alicia Smith as Eve and Pablo Lopez Sanchez-Matas as Adam, a snake-loving young couple who have just relocated to rural Ayrshire and are enjoying a rare sunny day in their garden.

Not only have they befriended an adder which lives under a pile of wood in the garden and keep an over-size boa constrictor in the bedroom, but they have started a campaign with all zealotry of the newly-arrived towny, against a local minor celebrity who has killed an adder and got away with a £400 fine.

Snake Lovers Association

A Facebook post calling for members for their newly created Snake Lovers Association draws a suspiciously speedy response from Lucy, who turns up in their garden and immediately starts tempting them with strangely potent whisky.

Susan Duffy has great fun creating Lucy, director Rik Kay does a good job in the opening setup scene and the company have honed a solid set for the piece.

However the production does feel a bit on one level – the script’s more interesting underlying tensions concerning the nature of protest get underplayed in favour of the comedy, and it needs a bit more variety of pace – although Smith is the source of some splendidly building diatribes when things eventually get out of control.

Serena Park, Trevor Lord, Nicola Alexander and James Scott in Tunnel Vision. Pic: Ailie Henderson

The second piece, from the Grads, Sheila Hodgson’s 1995 script Tunnel Vision is set in a London Tube station on a late night when everything seems to have stopped working. Including the escalators, as the bickering Leyland family teeter onto the platform after a night in town.

Susan, a brusque Nicola Alexander, and her boyfriend Brian, the suitable nondescript James Scott, have given up on getting a taxi and are waiting for the last train home with her parents: Peter, the excellent Trevor Lord, and Angie played by Serena Park, who grows magnificently into the role after a shaky start.

The visual staging, it must be said, is brilliantly minimal. An abstract Tube map, three bucket seats and a yellow line along the front of the blackout-curtained stage are quite enough. While Eirini Stamkou’s runaway youth, Liz, sits in the corner adding a frisson of tension.

The tension given off by Stamkou is heightened by various noises off and the gradually revealed story of the tragic death of Angie’s one-time lover in a stampede on a tube escalator.

somewhat muddled

Director Claire Morand gets strong performances from all five performers, and yet the whole piece feels somewhat muddled. The noises off, vital to the success of the piece, are never quite in keeping with what is happening on stage – one quite brilliant and notable moment, excepted.

As a consequence you are never sure whether this is drama, comedy or horror. A stronger production might succeed in being all three, this somehow contrives to be none of them. This is a partly down to the time-frame of the piece – the late eighties if you work it out – but which is played as if it were contemporary.

Ruairidh Hastie and Georgie Purvis in It Takes Two. Pic: Ailie Henderson

There is no such issue with the final piece of the evening, It Takes Two, a new work by Edinburgh Theatre Arts’ own Iain Robertson, who directs his own script. It follows the fortunes of the relationship between Gloria (Georgie Purvis) and Frank (Ruairidh Hastie), seen in five intimate moments over seven years.

Purvis and Hastie give a solid account of the two, who first meet in Dubai where she is teaching English and he is working on engineering oil pipes. They develop the characters nicely and you can’t help but feel for them both and hope that all will go well for them.

external eye

However you are too often left wondering where the drama is. Maybe an external eye would have helped Robertson, or if he had relinquished the directorial duties elsewhere. It all felt a bit banal: the first draught of something which has more to give.

As the festival adjudicator, Kate Stevenson, pointed out in her final remarks, the excellent use of John McLinden as a waiter in two of the scenes could have been extended to all five. Maybe each appearance could have reflected the nature of the couple’s relationship in that scene.

Still, It Takes Two is a pleasing enough entertainment and the production is certainly strong enough to make it worth entering the competition.

All that remains is to find out what the second night of one act plays has to hold.

Running time: Three hours (including two intervals).
Church Hill Theatre 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Friday 24 and Saturday 25 February 2023
Doors open 6.30pm, curtain up at 7pm both nights.
Tickets £11 for one night, £20 for both.
Youth and Blue Light tickets are £9 a night and £16 for both night.
Tickets will be available on the door or Book here

For details of all the winners of the SCDA One Act Festival, see EPT’s Book Club wins One Acts.

A report from Saturday’s performance is here.


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