Student Theatre at Glasgow, Websters Theatre, 16th February
STaG’s New Works Festival opens with a heart-warming message about the uplifting power of music against all odds, and ends with a bizarre epiphany in the form of a tranquiliser and cyclical memory loss. If you’re not intrigued then you really should be: the annual celebration of new student writing, spanning three days and six plays, is always inventive, curious and, at times, a little bit strange – but absolutely worth seeing.
The festival begins promisingly: a packed theatre, an enthusiastic audience and a definite buzz as the first play, Chris Duffy’s Bass & Treble, is announced. A young girl’s piano lessons are disrupted by the departure of her father for the Second World War – as the play progresses and the characters must deal with loss, the piano becomes both an instrument of the rich, meaningful soundtrack and a way of conveying intimacy and enforcing separation for the family, a set-piece that effectively enhances the haunting exchange of letters between the father and his faraway family. Although it verges on sentimentality at times, the piece utilises its twenty minute slot well and ends on a message of hope in times of darkness; the triumph of the evocative piano music over the harsh, chilling air-raid sirens.
Jack Cameron’s Breakfast at Epiphany’s has a refreshing change in direction: there’s a sense of something that the audience is missing as this humorously clever play progresses through a series of odd mishaps and revelations. Its premise is peculiar – six flatmates continually losing their memory to the point where reality loses its realness and the concept of time basically ceases to exist. It leaves the audience wondering exactly what has happened in the past to this group of friends, but the cast manage to carry it all off with ease and an exciting mix of comical physical humour, unexpected moments of poignancy and witty comments poking fun at the whole situation. A little stilted at the start, the play soon flows skilfully, as can be attested by the uproarious laughter from the audience and the discussion of the ingenious plot twist that ends Breakfast at Epiphany’s. Enjoyable and amusing, STaG New Works 2016 is off to an auspicious start.