Rehearsed reading reveals potential

Taken Leave by Lisa Turner Smith – Pulse Festival, Thursday June 3, Sir John Mills Theatre

This was a rehearsed reading of a play that had been developed out of Springboard, a New Wolsey theatre writing initiative from last year. Out of 16 ten minute pieces, two writers were chosen to have their idea developed further and the result is this play and Fra/g/MenT/ing by Jenny Barnett which is being aired over three nights in the second week of Pulse.

Rehearsed readings can be a little static and forced, but Rob Salmon as director had worked hard to get a performance out of the actors that brought all the characters to life. The original story focused on the terror of being a new mother unprepared for the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy that can go with it, especially if you have held down a successful career beforehand. This extended version added a parallel plot looking at the similar feelings experienced by a man newly retired, in this case Rachel’s own father, and in turn the helplessness and frustrations of the respective partners who are trying to help with the transition.

The thing I had liked about the original script was the claustrophobia of motherhood – suddenly being trapped with this small bundle of needs – and not knowing where to turn. Adding in the subplot diluted this scenario but did increase the humour of the piece and gave an added dimension in which to explore the characters.

The dialogue was very believable and although some of the scenes were a little contrived the plot flowed and empathy was created for all the characters, even the less explored ones of the partners.

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This was a piece that had lots of potential and although I think it may be hard to stage as a full length piece, but I could see it as a radio play and think the writer should consider going down that route.

Suzanne Hawkes

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