Despite the relaxing of COVID restrictions with the advent of “Freedom Day”, the world of theatre remains a very precarious one. Many productions have already had to pause in their runs as production teams have been required to self isolate. It is tenuous time to be working in this industry – even more tenuous than it usually is – so it is refreshing to find, within the mire of legitimate fear and stress, a series of works that attempt to cut through the limitations theatre currently faces and produce work that is both challenging and entertaining in equal measure.
Lights Down Productions returns for a second series with its brilliant Light On Showcase, bringing together 15 actors and 10 directors to perform the works of 10 writers. With narratives ranging from a daughter’s struggle to retrieve the front door keys her dog swallowed, to a new mother’s struggles with adjusting to her family’s new addition in lockdown, to the examination of the trailblazing though somewhat controversial Hollywood star, Hattie McDaniels, the scope of this series is broader and more adventurous than its first iteration. Indeed, there is a confidence and self-assuredness that seeps through ever pore of this series with the full embracement of its digital world setting; the gags and foibles of our now Zoom dominated lives are particularly slick in Vicky Richards’ Funny Old World and Tracey Hayward’s Sisters.
Lights Down once again bring a brilliantly skilled and strong creative team to this showcase, with moments of high comedy being tempered by beautifully controlled moments of naturalism. Sinead Ward is brilliantly infuriating as a seemingly hyper critical mother in Funny Old World, making Melanie Crossey’s growing frustrations as a children’s party clown all the more potent; I think any of us who have had experience in teaching or the children’s entertainment industry will recognise the spine crawling dissatisfaction of Crossey’s character. Bethan Leyshon’s quiet tragedy in Caley Powell’s I Wish I Was Clean beautifully places the writing into high naturalism, allowing the narrative structure’s unnerving conclusion to land with even more power. The detailed naturalism of Julia Papp’s performance in Judy Upton’s Moths is also beautifully handled, shining a light on the stories of those who have often been conveniently forgotten in our national pandemic narrative. The power of Kate Webster’s writing in Her (R)age blooms to full maturity with Shereener Browne’s performance, who strikes every beat with measured precision and a gorgeously multifaceted quality that details the complexity of her character. Indeed, this is an ambitious follow up to a strong premier showcase, and Lights Down excels in its ambition to lift up the voices of women in theatre.