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Tatchell and Shortstuff at Waterloo East Theatre

Adam Smith has been to see two of the plays in the 'WET Rep' season at Waterloo's newest theatre.

Tatchell by Jonathan Bonfiglio

One night after bumping into each other for the first time in the four years since their relationship ended, Anna and Stephen meet up on a London rooftop. It's the eve of the 2010 general election, for which Stephen had been campaigning on behalf of Green Party candidate Peter Tatchell. This one-hour play about memory and the tension between the present and what-could-be, unfolds a feast of ideas and arguments. As Anna and Stephen discuss a contemporary political landscape, they also delve haltingly into their shared pasts. Playwright Jonathan Bonfiglio's achievement is in making his characters' digressions authentic. The dialogue ebbs and sways like real conversation, here one moment and years ago the next.

Far from being a cipher for political debate, the issues within Tatchell's campaign agenda open up a deeper analysis of these two characters. The technique proves essential when Bonfiglio unites Anna's political discontent with her lifestyle choices – this final section, though brilliantly written and performed, does lack some connective fibres. Her view of politics has influenced her life, she seems to say, but doesn't show us how. Nevertheless, the way she details her more personally emotional influences is moving and very real. Lucy Roslyn's performance as Anna is excellent. That said, it would be interesting to see these characters played by older actors – late-thirties and above – who more obviously carry longer histories.

A long-time local figure who is featured in this month's edition of Southwark Life, Tatchell provides an intriguing unseen character in this short play. The idea is creative, never forced and makes for a piece that is tight with tension.

Shortstuff by Anna Jordan

Anna Jordan's trio of miniature plays shines a spotlight on distinct elements of modern life – from coping with neighbours' lifestyles to bullying, from the credit crunch to gangs. Jordan has the knack of painting a character immediately – an absolute must in a short play. But she also leaves something to be discovered later on, which is one reason why these short plays are so absorbing. Some of her characters can unfortunately slip between authentically funny and caricature, although she usually keeps them on the right side of that line. The stand-out piece of the trio is the central one, about a widow who holds her late husband's DIY funeral in their back garden, the grown son who helps and the local reporter who covers the story. It is both sad and humorous – and always true.
The first-ever repertory season at Waterloo East Theatre is now under way, featuring Tatchell, Shortstuff, Bender and Laundry.

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