What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) (John Berger)
The Space is an exciting venue on the Isle of Dogs featuring mainly new writing but also offering daring new productions of the classics. The One Festival, now in its fifth year, accommodates five programmes over three weeks, entailing a variety of stories that have one thing in common - they are performed by only one actor.
Programme E includes one 50 minute play and three short plays with a running time of 15 minutes each. Searching Shadows, written and performed by Emily Orley, is structured like a scientific lecture. Emily Orley combines the biography of her grandfather, a radiologist from Bialystok who moved to a variety of European countries and the US before eventually emigrating to Britain, with the history of radiology and the reception of this new science.
Directed by Christopher Heighes, this multi-media show employs a slide projector to display x-ray photographs and photographs of Orley's grandfather and family to illustrate her narrative, an ancient record player and a tape recorder to provide various sound effects, particularly whenever Emily Orley is quoting from her grandfather's journal and letters.
This is an intriguing performance, providing a plethora of information about society's fascination with radiology 100 years ago as well as retelling Dr Orley's story. The show is a bit slow-paced at times and somewhat repetitive, the John Berger quote is used three times, but it remains a fascinating piece of work.
After the interval, the programme continued with three shorter plays. If the Shoe Fits, written and performed by Cheryl Walker and directed by Simone Watson is a delightful play about a young Londoner with a Jamaican background who travels to Jamaica for the first time to celebrate her great-grandfather's 100th birthday and ends up learning much about herself.
Cornet Solo by Ben Francis and performed by Silas John Hawkins deals with the owner of an ice cream van. Business has been slow and this is one the last hot days of the year. Yet on this particular day the queue at Ianto's van is never ending. His customers are enjoying a special spectacle - a potential suicide who is standing at the ledge of a high building. Hawkins inhabits his role as the seasoned ice cream seller as the story reaches an unexpected climax.
The final play of the evening is Among the Missing, written and directed by Niamh de Valera, Artistic Director of the Blue Elephant Theatre, and performed by Jess Neale. A recent graduate is taking a "gap year" working as a barrista in a coffee shop when she meets the perfect student, obviously on the road to success. Immaculately styled and enjoying her exciting internship at a local gallery, Jess Neale's frequent customer is an object of envy for the hapless barrista. But one day her customer disappears and it turns out that her situation was quite different - "appearances can be deceptive". An intriguing play with a surprise ending that makes one think.
These very different plays are well acted, well written and provide a thought-provoking experience and an entertaining evening.
By Carolin Kopplin
Running time: 2 hours including one interval
The run has now ended.