Like most theatres, The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond has been closed since last March. Now, after twelve months of being dark, their stage comes to life again with the first instalment of Inside/Outside. Inside features three of the six world premiere plays by emerging and established writers chosen for this season.
For both Inside and Outside the plays are livestreamed from the stage of the theatre, and with so much pre-recorded theatre on offer elsewhere, it’s thrilling to find ourselves taking our seats for a live performance once again.
Given the importance the pandemic has placed on the division between inside and outside, it makes sense that The Orange Tree Theatre should want to curate a season that reflects that cultural shift. The first three plays, presented as Inside, sees three intriguing pieces set within the same four walls.
In Deborah Bruce’s Guidesky and I, Samantha Spiro plays Diana, a woman who finds herself alone, clearing out her recently deceased mothers house during the pandemic. In escalating email correspondence with scam internet seller Guidesky125 we see the crumbling mental state of a woman who is now uncertain and scared of the world outside.
Spiro’s tense performance bristles with nervous energy, and anyone who has spent the pandemic at home will recognise the thoughts and feelings that have come with this unsettling time. Bruce’s taught writing recognises the crushing isolation that Diana feels and lays it bare for the audience.
Diana’s new home transitions nicely to Meg’s flat for Joel Tan’s Where The Daffodils, an astutely written piece that gently unravels a chilling prospective future of life post pandemic. Ishia Bennison’s portrayal of Meg highlights the vulnerability of the older generation while Jessica Murrain’s Samia highlights how younger generations have been affected.
The final play is Ursa Major by Joe White which sees two strangers, Jay and Callisto, come together to help each other at the unlikeliest of times. While Jay has been left alone, abandoned by the love of his life, Callisto sleeps in a tent in the park, abandoned by everyone. Fisayo Akinade and Sasha Winslow’s tender performances really accentuate White’s beautiful writing, and even in such a short play, the character development is solid.
All three plays are directed by Anna Himali Howard, who has in one sense made this feel like three acts of the same play. The way the individual pieces come together and touch upon similar themes make it easy to forget they are all written by different playwrights. Some of that will be down to Guy Jones, who has done a marvellous job of curating Inside and Shankho Chaudhuri’s design which carefully evolves through each play.
Even watching on a screen, there’s a real sense that this is ‘live theatre’ and its electrifying. It may have been twelve months, but with Inside The Orange Tree makes a triumphant return, and this is still only half of what they have to offer! For those of us who have spent so much time indoors, Inside reminds us how wonderful live theatre can be even if we can’t yet get ‘outside’ to see it.
Inside streams live Thursday 25 – Saturday 27 March 2021. Tickets are on sale here