The formula involves commissioning three leading contemporary playwrights – Rob Drummond, Catherine Grosvenor and David Ireland – to write new one-hour plays for this gifted company, and although only two plays can be presented each evening, the results are always interesting and sometimes electrifying.
The programme I saw opened with Rob Drummond’s Healing Waters, about a group of women at a creepy religious summer-school for people who want to stop being gay. If the play’s structure and staging are surprisingly conventional and untheatrical – short cumulative scenes designed to demonstrate just how weird the people running the school are, divided by long fades to black while the cast rearrange the furniture – the theme is so well-chosen, and the acting so energised and committed, that the play storms along in fine style.
And David Ireland’s The Hen Night, which followed, is nothing less than a small tour-de-force of contemporary farce, set in the flat of beautiful Helen (a terrific comic performance from Lauren Hurwood) on the evening when she tries to make her hen night a quiet affair, and ends up on the floor of a wrecked flat, handcuffed to a David Schwimmer-lookalike stripper wearing nothing but his underpants.
The pace is furious, the one-liners brilliant, the six-strong ensemble superb and the whole experience combines hilarious stage comedy with an idea that could be commissioned tomorrow for one of the best BBC sitcoms in a while.
Rating: * * * *