9th April. Studio Theatre. 20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield was always going to be met with anticipation by local theatre goers; as the play made clear, we’re a bit in love with this city.  Throw into the mix that it’s a community crafted production, with a mix of writers both experienced and new and you […]

9th April.
Studio Theatre.

20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield was always going to be met with anticipation by local theatre goers; as the play made clear, we’re a bit in love with this city.  Throw into the mix that it’s a community crafted production, with a mix of writers both experienced and new and you have the potential for a richly diverse and exhilarating play.

The result was production which was admittedly a little rough around the edges, which occasionally struggled with pacing, but which ultimately was a compelling piece of theatre.  Each play lasted five minutes and covered all things the writers saw as Sheffield, from a repeated incantation of the five rivers; to the story of a Sheffield born son’s quest to find his mother’s murderers; to Jess Ennis (arguably a little too much airtime?) and even to a night out at Dempseys.

There was a significant mix of styles from movement based pieces, to songs, monologues and dialogues which kept things varied.  Unfortunately, the quality of each play varied significantly too, which meant that certain episodes disrupted the cohesion of the rest.  That being said, when the plays were good, they were great.  A piece about a young girl’s burgeoning passion for snooker was one of my favourites, as well as a poignant final piece about the Tinsley Towers.  There was something uniquely comforting in watching a play about places you know and experiences you’ve had too, which definitely added a certain magic to the experience.

I can’t help feeling that the play could have benefited from a bit more depth in terms of the history of Sheffield, but every Sheffield resident would have their own “this is Sheffield” criteria, and admittedly this was a handful of them put on stage.

I did hope that I might learn something new about Sheffield, but the political tract which started from the early surreal short about selling off Sheffield and culminated in the arresting re-enactment of the end of the Tinsley Towers captured, for me, a potent voice in Sheffield’s spirits.  Indeed, the play managed to capture the tension between nostalgia and the future which arguably lingers over Sheffield and perhaps this is why it wasn’t “a history of”, but a collection of voices from the present.

The fact that the plays were acted by local Sheffield people from age 12 to 85 who all have unique experiences of the city added authenticity, although (and I suppose, inevitably) some of the plays were a bit “writerly”.  There were moments where I would have been more interested in hearing from the people on stage as people, rather than see them act some of the weaker shorts.  Overall, the production fell just short of fulfilling the potential it had, but there were enough moments of compelling, funny and moving theatre to make it a unique and really quite wonderful production.

Catherine Dickinson.