as part of STaG: New Works, Cottiers Theatre (19th February)

After Dinner by Ross Van Gogh and That Sinking Feeling by Alan Wanders served as a nice little slice of absurd comedy. Both pieces, part of the STaG New Works festival, moved at a blistering pace through tales of petrifying horror, alcoholism, crippling gambling, crippling love for the plot of Titanic and the looming (non-)presence of the Chinese (spoilers).

After Dinner followed a single scene structure with the main character detailing to his dinner guests a tale that would make their hairs stand on end (a claim met with immediate derision by his boisterous guests). The piece took care to never take itself too seriously with a campy melodramatic air surrounding the tale, including cue lightning strikes and more derision from the supporting cast. Besides the camp factor, the piece also relied upon the sharp wit, frequent retorts and sardonic comments from the characters but unfortunately at times the dialogue flew by so quickly that some of the humour, and some of the plot, was lost. However, in the end, After Dinner was an amusing take on the gothic ‘let me tell you a tale accompanied by a twist ending!’ routine.

That Sinking Feeling felt like Airplane on a boat. The plot was nonsense. The characters were nonsense. The dialogue was, frequently, nonsense. All of it was glorious. The same issue existed in this piece as with After Dinner: the plot moving by so quickly that the audience was left frantically trying to pick up the pieces left in the wake of actors trailing puns and non-sequiturs from cabin to cabin. Compared to the After Dinner, the second play was considerably more feverish and at times came across as a little inconsistent in the quality of its jokes but ultimately it served as a nice contrast to the first piece.

Despite their shared issues, both performances succeeded in being entertaining and both offered a light hearted jaunt through what might have otherwise been rather dark stories. They worked both alongside each other and within the festival as a showcase of the student playwrights and actors championed yearly by STaG.

Congratulations are due for That Sinking Feeling, which has been chosen by the New Works judging panel, made up by playwright Oliver Emanuel (Dragon), producer Susannah Armitage (A Play, Pie and A Pint), playwright and dramaturg Lynda Radley (Dandelion, Dorm) and finally writer and director Mark MacNicol (Stage to Page). As a result the show will be taken to this year’s Fringe festival. In past years STaG has had much success at the Edinburgh Fringe, with 2013’s Love In The Past Participle a critically acclaimed success.

Now with a few months of preparation, rehearsal and fine tuning ahead, That Sinking Feeling can only improve what was already a superbly entertaining production. I can only encourage you to keep this play in mind when August comes around and for now, qmunicate passes on our congratulations to Alan Wanders and the whole team behind the piece and look forward to seeing it again at the Fringe.

[Andrew Scade]

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