Continuing their run of successful new writing nights, Full Disclosure Theatre returned to Southwark Playhouse on Sunday evening with XPOSED, which saw eight new work-in-progress plays by emerging writers, staged for an audience who are invited to give feedback on what they have seen. This allows the creatives behind each piece to receive valuable insights on how best to take their work forward.
Eight plays in two hours is no easy feat to pull off. But the great thing about this curated night is just how much of queer life it manages to span; each and every play can stand out on its own, while the overall theme successfully resonates with an audience who would gladly sit through another eight plays, if they were as impressive as the ones we had just seen.
The night opened with Niall Urquhart’s Converting The Preached To, directed by Louis Catliff. Exploring gay conversion therapy through a very comical twist, it was the perfect opener to the evening with excellent performances from Ikky Elyas, Linus Karp and Pedro de Senna. It wasn’t the only comedy piece of the night as Time and a Place by Nikki Hill demonstrated at the end of the first act. Although dealing with a sensitive subject, the setting, and superb performances by Laura Hyde and Maryam Grace, made it relatable, while Sam Luffman’s direction made the piece work in ways that left us crying out for a longer version.
Threesome by Natasha Ali, and directed by Lucia Cox, was a far more sobering story of a young girl whose poor sexual education had led her to Tinder, in an attempt to find a couple willing to engage in a Threesome. It was a fascinating piece, and Chloe Jane Millar succeeded in really getting to the heart of the character.
Equally as interesting was Ivo de Jager’s The Department of Interpersonal Relations, directed by Saffia Kavaz. Here, Chantelle Levene, Mia Georgis, Oliver O’Donohoe and Tom Allenby brought to life a world where your sexual orientation is identified from your genes, and a partner assigned to you regardless of your own perceived preference.
The second act opened with another comedy in Asking for a Friend by Rhys Bevan, and directed by Chris Davis. The concept of surrogacy came to the fore as Deven Modha and Drew Dillon find themselves asking their best friend to help them have a child. The performance of the night belonged to Rachel Hilton who was able to have the audience in hysterics in one moment, and moved to tears in the next.
Nicole Latchana’s Where’s Cecily?, directed by Sita Thomas, dealt with the psychological and physical trauma associated with transitioning. Georgia Lindsay and Remus Brooks played the couple who were at odds on how their future should look. The night ended with Date Night, a wonderful comedy from Thomas Smith and directed by Ruth Endersby. Srabani Sen and Jacqueline Johnson find themselves at a lesbian speed dating night where both have different expectations, and yet both manage to find what they were looking for.
The highlight of the second act, and indeed the night, was Vanilla by James Woodall, and directed by Aran Cherkez. It begins as a typical ‘coming-out’ story but develops in to a far more complex examination of gay life. Told in a kind of poetic monologue, with interventions from Arianne Carless and Dan Overton, the central character navigates life in a way that will have been in some way familiar to everyone sitting in the audience. An incredibly astute performance from James Kileen was the icing on the cake for a play that desperately needs to be developed in to a full-length work.
It seems fitting that Full Disclosure Theatre should have staged XPOSED as we enter Pride month, but this is a company that flies the flag all year round, and the opportunities they provide to new writers, and the LGBTQ+ community is absolutely invaluable.