Following the success of their first show, 143 (1 writer, 4 actors, 3 plays) earlier this year, Tiny Theatre Company and award-winning writer, Isabelle Stokes have returned to create a full length version of Cold Chips; one of the short plays featured in their debut production.
First things first, Tiny Theatre Company is representative of what today’s theatre should be; an open space for anyone and everyone. A company passionate about creating opportunities for actors, directors, playwrights and creatives; it deserves recognition, especially in an age where more cuts to the arts are making it increasingly difficult to create new and exciting theatre. Sharing its ethos is Theatre N16, 1 of only 7 fringe theatres that does not charge companies to put on shows; opening its doors to working-class and under-represented artists and encouraging them to take risks when it comes to new work. Such self-funded programmes deserve to be commended and allowances can and should be made when it comes to the limited nature of the layout, design and technical freedom of such projects. However, when it’s almost impossible to see or hear the actors unless seated on the front row, it’s hard to be objective.
With a running time of under an hour, Cold Chips still feels like a short play. A bittersweet story of best friends Ella (Olivia May Roebuck) and Ryan (Hippolyte Poirier), the central friendship of the piece is beautiful, however, there is little to no journey overall and when comparing the characters at the start of the play to those at the end, Stokes struggles to create a significant enough change. A stark set means it’s the responsibility of the actors to create the world and atmosphere of the play for the audience’s eye, but unfortunately this element seems to have been overlooked and it’s a challenge to visualise the various locations, making it hard to connect with the story as a whole.
Director, Alexandra Brailsford does her best break up the narrative with well-choreographed vignettes, but these seem to be used more as a tool to flesh out the piece, than as an aid to the actual story. Perhaps if there were more characters to portray, this concept would be more successful – not only that but it would also give Roebuck and Poirier more to play with, as they’re obviously both accomplished performers.
The symbolism of the humble park bench is often taken for granted and you could easily walk past one without a second glance. When empty, it can be a reminder of loneliness; the memory of someone missing, yet somehow when sitting on one, problems seem tolerable and manageable, almost as if they belong there. A heart-warming piece of writing that has so much potential, it’s certainly in the right hands; fingers crossed for further development.