Bare Essentials, the new writing night powered by Encompass Productions has had to find a new home during the lockdown, and returns for its fourth online edition, Bare E-ssentials IV: A New Hope. That new hope may refer to the fact that after six months of darkness theatres are finally starting to spring to life, or it may simply reflect the potential and excitement that comes from a piece of new writing.
As always, the night is comprised of four short pieces, all performed live from the actor’s homes, and woven together using the wonder of technology. It’s remarkably well put together, seamlessly transitioning from one element to the next.
First up for Bare E-ssentials IV: A New Hope, is Cold Call by Scott Younger. Steve, the lone worker in a data management company finds himself on the receiving end of a double glazing sales call. His immense need for human interaction leads him down a farcical path, though not all is as it seems. Duncan Mason gives a wonderfully over the top performance as Steve, balancing the character somewhere between awkward and creepy, but certainly entertaining.
Katie Murphy’s Just a Game follows, and examines how game players real lives can bleed in to the fantasy adventures they play online and vice versa. Monika Miles and Andrew Gichigi play gaming buddies who have suffered a loss, and not even their beloved game can fill the hole that’s been left in their lives. It’s a really interesting concept, and one that could definitely be developed in to a longer, more exploratory piece.
Pay It Backward by Donna Hoke is Bare E-ssentials first piece with three actors, Josh Morter, Simon Pothecary and Holli Dillon. The Random Acts of Kindness Credit Bureau offers credits to people who call in to share stories of anonymous good deeds, though one repeat caller takes things a little too far. It’s an extremely funny short piece, but still manages to ask deeper questions, such as who decides what’s a good deed?
While comedy was the prevalent theme of the night, the final piece took a different path. Alan Hall’s Crimson Eyes explores homelessness from the point of view of a young woman who never expected to find herself on the streets. It’s poignantly written and features a superbly engaging performance from Megan Pemberton. After watching this particular piece, it was clear why some of the creatives behind Bare E-ssentials: A New Hope were donating the money they raised to homeless charity Crisis.
One always hopes that any new piece of theatre will be worth watching, and yet again Bare E-ssentials IV does not disappoint; interesting, funny and deeply moving, all in the space of an hour. Some ‘new hope’ did emerge as the company announced an upcoming new writing theatre festival, Homecoming, at the White Bear Theatre in November, which will include Bare Essentials returning to the place it belongs, an actual stage.