REVIEW: INK Festival in Halesworth shows off our emerging talent

The INK Festival team

The INK Festival team - Credit: Origin8Photography.com

Upstairs at the White Swan pub in Halesworth, clothes are coming off and a bed unrolling as two tipsy young partygoers prepare to hook up.

But they keep getting distracted from their passion mid-flurry by a political disagreement about Zionism.

The briefest pause as actors re-set, and now we are in a US shooting gallery in a tense conversation about fear and trust with Chris Larner as the instructor.  

Another blink, and he is a different man entirely in the next miniature play, as a middle-aged man tries to pray and finds that God is a pushbutton call centre and ‘Your call is important to us”.  

It’s one of the day’s funniest. Moments later a New York firefighter is dismayed that his blind date wears a hijab.  

Passport by Will Gompertz, at the INK festival

Passport by Will Gompertz, at the INK festival - Credit: Origin8Photography.com

That was a refreshing hour. Meanwhile five minutes across town in the Kings garage next to the Cut I encountered Alan Titchmarsh’s stalker, then a wrenching portrait of bitter lonely affection for a partner in a care home, and finally a remarkable solo performance by Amber Muldoon - one of INK’s youngest discoveries,  as a woman steeling herself against harsh odds to protect her unborn child.   

INK is unique: it seeks out short plays (5 to 20 minutes usually) from previously unproduced writers.

Then it produces them, mostly onstage but also as radio work, employing seasoned actors and professional directors including the award-winning Paul Schlesinger.

Most Read

It enlivens the town (Halesworth is definitely a place to be this weekend) but the deepest value of INK to the future of new writing can’t be overestimated.

Seeing your work come alive is not only a buzz, but an important education in how characters and stories develop. 

I saw 18 plays on the first day (they are grouped, shown together in different sites) and as a critic can affirm that the standard varies from very high indeed to pleasingly entertaining or interestingly promising.

The festival belongs to its emerging unknowns, and the creative future of our region and nation, but every year INK invites a few “INKredibles”, better-known figures with local ties, to submit plays on a theme.

This year it was “passports”, and while one was startlingly dark, and Arthur Smith’s memory of his mother’s dementia profoundly touching, there was obvious glee after these Covid years in jokes about travel frustration.

The Most Important Journey Doesn't Need a Passport, by Miranda Hart, at the INK Festival in Halesworth

The Most Important Journey Doesn't Need a Passport, by Miranda Hart, at the INK Festival in Halesworth - Credit: Origin8Photography.com

Cuckoo, which is touring schools and colleges after the festival

Cuckoo, which is touring schools and colleges after the festival - Credit: Origin8Photography.com

We saw Miranda Hart’s portrait of fussing airport parents, Will Gompertz on the danger of making jokes at customs, and best of all two gloriously demented Border Force officials in Spanish Friend by Judy Upton.

I have seven more shows to see and look forward greatly.

- Libby Purves was The TImes Chief Theatre Critic 2010-2013 and now reviews theatre nationally on www.theatrecat.com 

The INK festival continues in Halesworth this weekend

The INK festival continues in Halesworth this weekend - Credit: Origin8Photography.com

Inside Alan, by Mitch Day

Inside Alan, by Mitch Day - Credit: Origin8Photography.com