There was definitely something a bit strange about two of the ushers on duty this evening; the same strange pudding bowl haircuts and both looking rather overdressed and lumpy. So, maybe I shouldn’t have been too surprised when they (Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls) took to the stage as the lights went down! The lumpiness and bad hair is explained when they later remove their wigs and several layers of clothing.
Craig Taylor began writing One Million Tiny Plays About Britain while working in a hardware store in Canada, he wrote down his customer’s memorable conversations that he’d overheard. He continued doing this after he moved to London, writing down the strange conversations and specialised phrases of the different age groups and cultures he encountered. Not quite a million, there are 95 plays in Craig’s book and by my reckoning 29 performed tonight. I found the set a little confusing as it seemed to suggest we were in 1950s or 60s Britain whereas Craig didn’t start writing these plays until the 1990s.
A flashing bingo card appears to randomly select which plays are going to be performed, I’d like to think that the cast are ready to go with all 95 plays and every night is different. Emma and Alec play all the parts swapping gender, age and region expertly. The plays have a huge range of subjects including: what front of house staff do when a play begins, how football practice has changed in one generation, Care in the Community, mobile phones, the rush of modern life, getting on the property ladder and CCTV. My favourites were probably the busy doctor battling with a computer system that actually stops her from working and the two ladies arguing over who should pay the bill in the tea room. This play reminded me of my father who was often so desperate to pay the bill before anyone else that we ended up missing coffee and desserts!
Most of the tiny plays made me laugh others were very sad, all very well observed snippets of British life. This was a terribly British evening even including a round of bingo. I might have thought that it wouldn’t work very
well for visitors from other countries, but then I remembered that it was written by a Canadian. Great fun, worth seeing at least once.
Review by Sally Knipe
A couple peer into an estate agent’s window; two sports fans have a heart-to-heart in the loo; a daughter has questions about her mother’s love life; and as a father helps his son tie his football boots, he realises they are growing apart. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are a million tiny plays happening every day.
This December Jermyn Street Theatre will stage One Million Tiny Plays About Britain by Craig Taylor. This heartwarming collage of scenes about twenty-first century life will star Emma Barclay (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth – Watermill Theatre Ensemble, Babe the Sheep-Pig – Polka Theatre, Honk! – UK Tour) and Alec Nichols (Alcatraz – Vault Festival, Catalyst – North Wall Theatre, Broadchurch – ITV). The production is directed by Laura Keefe and was originally staged at The Watermill Theatre where it will be returning for a three week run at the end of January 2020.
Originally published as a series of short sketches in The Guardian, One Million Tiny Plays About Britain captures everyday life in our nation with humour, pathos and perfect timing. Laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes heartbreakingly moving, these tiny plays provide a glimpse into other people’s lives, revealing the triumphs, disasters, prejudices, horrors and joys familiar to us all.
ONE MILLION TINY PLAYS ABOUT BRITAIN
By Craig Taylor
Directed by Laura Keefe
Set and Costume Design by Ceci Calf
Sound Design by Harry Linden Johnson
JERMYN STREET THEATRE
16B Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6ST
Wednesday 4th December to Saturday 11th January