OTR - Reviews of Script in Hand

Script in Hand

Thu 16th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Anwen Jones

at 00:40 on 18th Aug 2012

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I will simply come out and say it – 'Script in Hand' is one of the most innovative and challenging pieces of theatre I have seen so far at the Fringe.

First impressions can be misleading with this play and certainly, after a long day traipsing around the city in the dreary rain, I was quite prepared to sit with my head in my hands when Toby Williams (Paul Warriner) began talking animatedly about typography in Nazi Germany. However, it wasn’t long before I was drawn into Toby’s aggravation, passion and intriguing personality. The intimacy of the venue and the casual expressions and informal style of Warriner had the unusual effect of changing the audience from a passive observer to the real receiver of his thoughts and emotions. We were no longer watching a play but partaking silently in a conversation with a normal, under-stated guy.

This ability to blur our reality with stagecraft is just one example of how incredibly talented and accomplished the members of Piece of Work are. The actors embody their characters so expertly that it is difficult to remember that they are playing a role and that the personalities being presented to the audience, no matter how authentic they seem, are fictional.

However, the outstanding acting was not the only thing that made 'Script in Hand' so incredible. The whole concept behind the piece is meticulously planned; Sean Gregory’s pioneering writing ensures a spectacular development of action and demolition of any pre-conceived ideas about how a story will end and how a plot will unfold. Quite simply, the script isn’t safe – it takes dips and dives until, eventually, it reaches a conclusion that no-one could’ve expected.

Admittedly, there are parts of the production which I don’t fully understand and at times, the intelligent twists and unexpected happenings cause the audience to think quickly in order to keep up. However, I do not consider this a negative thing but an expected reaction to something quite so unusual and original as this.

In short, 'Script in Hand' is a truly unique, challenging and impressive piece of theatre, leaving you with questions and curiousities but mainly a feeling of being utterly dumbfounded by an incredible work of art. Simply masterful drama and writing.

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Thomas Stell

at 04:16 on 18th Aug 2012

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Paul Renner was a typeface designer living in Germany at the time of the Nazis. Futura, his best known font, was designed according to the rules of functionality and geometry; he was finding a way of writing for his times and for the machine age. A set of letters that preserved nothing of the past for its own sake, and had nothing to do with writing by hand; its creator a sort of le Corbusier for book design. But the Nazis silenced him, for similar reasons as for their attacks on degenerate art, and he died with no great and easily noticed achievements for us to remember him by.

Paul Warriner plays an actor once given Renner’s part in the theatre. Like Renner he was oppressed – by the director, by the script writer and by his fellow actor (Stewart Lockwood). He finds his lines are being cut and replaced by voice-over. He has become very interested in Renner’s ideas, and sympathises strongly with him. He believes Renner is being silenced again in his own sufferings.

Already you see we have a kind of play within a play, but 'Script in Hand' is more complicated than that would suggest. It is difficult to see where one play ends and the next begins, where one character ends and the next begins, what is history and what isn’t, what is real and what is in the play. The whole thing is extremely arch and very clever. Lockwood’s character for instance knows far less about Renner than Warriner’s does, but he argues that recreating a Renner of the past would be against the man’s ideology. It is not clear which, if either, is supposed to be right. That is one of many questions that are asked but not directly answered.

Lockwood and Warriner are both charismatic and technically accomplished: the latter quality in particular is important in avant-garde work of this kind. I think to fully understand Renner we have to know more about his times and their anxieties than we are told in the play. That kind of modernism depended on an idea of progress, and a confidence in it, that is less strong now because of so much post-modern thought. But given the length of the piece, Renner’s ideas are remarkably well explained.

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