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Watermill Theatre - One Million Tiny Plays About Britain

12th to 23rd April 2016.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Snapshots of British life

The Watermill's 30 little plays in one, touring villages near you

One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Tuesday, April 12, to Saturday, April 23

Whether you get tickets at the theatre or go to one of the tour venues listed on the Watermill's website, don't miss the chance to see this extraordinarily perceptive look at the folk who inhabit Great Britain.

Based on overheard conversations and, I suspect, people known to writer Craig Taylor, actors Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls throw themselves into performing no less than 30 plays. Progress is marked by a bingo board lighting up a number, whereupon the actors freeze and a voice announces the next scenario. Instantly and incredibly fast the two transform themselves into new characters, flinging unwanted clothing and props aside, occasionally changing gender, too.

The action takes place in places all over the country and storylines vary from hilarious to poignant. There's the couple who study police reports to find a house where a murder has taken place so that it would be cheap, the little girl worried about security cameras, the mother (Alec Nicholls) who has just been on a first date ("I've never met someone who talked so much about ring roads"), the overworked GP asking her patient if he recognised his own urine from two sample bottles on her desk, conversations on building sites, restaurants, quayside, a park, and even a gents' urinal which had the two characters 'having a bit of trouble' as Frank Spencer would say – the audience clapped when this was overcome!

In spite of all the humour, it is a moving play which stays foremost in my mind. Emma Barclay as the pink hairnetted elderly lady being interviewed to discover if she is fit to live alone. Completely confused as to whether she is in a hotel room or her home and whether she has given the interviewer tea, part of her mind is nevertheless desperately, heartbreakingly clinging to sanity as she says: "This is the home I'm going to stay in."

After the interval, the mood frequently deepened in this clever, slick performance from the two actors who brought their characters to life as people we all know.

Directed by Laura Keefe, with design by Fly Davis, One Million Tiny Plays About Britain takes the audience on a journey that is unusual, compelling, alternately funny and moving, but always entertaining.

CAROLINE FRANKLIN