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Magic In The Making

Anja A. Drautzburg

OUDS New Writing Festival 2015
17-21 February 2015
Burton Taylor Studio Oxford

Really one is spoilt for choice: after more submissions than ever before, the OUDS New Writing Festival has clearly gained more credits and recognition over time. This year’s team, around co-producers Howard Coase and Rebecca Roughan, selected four original scripts by emerging student playwrights, which are going to be brought to life at the Burton Taylor throughout the notoriously blue 5th week of Hilary term. Good news is, the plays are sure to add a lot of colour to the palette.
Award-winning writer Lucy Kirkwood (Chimerica, NSFW) is going to judge the best script, North Wall’s artistic director Lucy Maycock the best production, and, another first, two agents from London-based agency Independent Talent the best actor of the Festival. Alongside the plays, a rehearsed reading of Tim Crouch’s positively challenging The Author and several workshops are designed to complement the programme in order to create a genuine festival feeling, as Coase points out.

Take Off, written by Lamorna Ash, directed by Adam Leonard, with Tom Pease, Sarah Mathews, Daisy Hayes, and Ben Goldstein
Tue, Thu & Sat at 7.30pm
Inspired by recent, somewhat ludicrous-sounding stories of Mars missions that could be open to everybody in the future, Lamorna Ash sends a man to space for four years in her play. The team presents a split scene between the man who is about to leave planet Earth and his anguished long-term girlfriend on one side, and his younger brother and sister on the other side. The two pairs discuss farewells, loss, and future plans. These relationships are marvellously established. The four actors create a lovely atmosphere in the room. The innovative subject matter plays fascinatingly with the suggestive juxtaposition of looking up to space and looking down to earth.
Intense and funny.

A Sense of Falling, written by Adam Leonard, directed by Sarah Wright, with Gwenno Jones, Alon Witztum, and Chris White
Tue, Thu & Sat at 9.30pm
The play opens in a living-room in the Welsh countryside, with a pot of stew, a vulnerable woman and a somewhat menacing older man. In rehearsal, the cast and director used improvisations in order to give their characters depth and a backstory, which certainly shows in the short scenes presented. There are gripping insights into the woman character’s troubled mind, and a lot of rawness in the performances of all three actors. Adam Leonard’s intelligent script, rich with echoes of Pinter and Butterworth, offers a number of riddles that the production does not seek to simplify. A compelling sense of emotion underpins the piece.
Enigmatic and haunting.

Lads, written by Mallika Sood, directed by Mischa Andreski, with Will Stevens, Shrai Popat, and Joanna Connolly
Wed & Fri at 7.30pm, Sat at 2.30pm
At the risk of spelling out the obvious, Mallika Sood’s play engages with lad culture. However, it does so with a clever twist in that the plot is located within a gay relationship. In a bar late at night, emotional insecurities run high, and a complicated love triangle arises from a bet involving a woman. The openly flirtatious tone between the woman and one of the lads perfectly captures what can be observed in any bar on a Saturday night.
Thought-provoking and touching.

Twin Primes, written by Florence Read, directed by Kate Bussert, with Sammy
Glover and Ogemdi Udi
Wed & Fri at 9.30pm, Sat at 4.30pm
Two actresses, 11 scenes, 22 different characters, a stage full of props, but certainly not a play about mathematics. What sounds like an impossible task turns out to be incredibly exciting. In a nutshell, the play deals with communication and is about people. There is music, too. Apart from the first and last scenes, this play is in a state of flux; every performance is different; the actresses will decide the order of things on the go, which demands huge amounts of concentration. But, with the fascinating chemistry between them, the show is absolutely exhilarating.
Mesmerizing and compelling.

All productions bring together faces we have seen on Oxford’s stages before with a great range of fresh talent. The Festival is certainly showcasing the diversity of new writing around at the moment. No play is like another; each is a rough diamond ready to be cut. I can only recommend seeing all of them. Kudos to the producers! May the judges decide.

Anja A. Drautzburg is reading for a DPhil in English literature at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and is a lover of all things thespian. She is Editor of ORbits at the Oxonian Review.