Theatre Review: Double Feature at the National

A pop-up theatre at the National is the perfect setting for four plays by new writers.

The National Theatre were going to host Double Feature, their series of new plays, in the Cottesloe.

But instead it was decided to run these four plays (two per evening) by new writers in the theatre’s Paintframe, which has been converted into a space with the feel of a fringe, pop-up theatre, the perfect setting in which to experience these innovative new plays.

Prasanna Puwanarajah’s Nightwatchman and Tom Basden’s There is a War were featured on the night I attended, and though very different in style, had the common theme of war and its effect on everyday people.

The Nightwatchman is a one-woman play about a top female cricketer of Sri Lankan descent preparing to play for England, who deals with mixed emotions about her father and the political turmoil in his home country. The combination of Stephanie Street’s extraordinary performance, unnerving stage tricks, and Puwanarajah’s insightful and heartfelt script thrilled me.

In contrast, Tom Basden’s script featured 20 plus characters, constant changes of location and lots of noise. Set in a place that is both recognisable and unrecognisable, where greys and blues are at war, but barely distinguishable from each other, it is pure farce. Though Basden tries a bit too hard for a laugh at times, this is a prescient play in which no member of society escapes scrutiny.

Double Feature makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Hopefully the National will continue to take risks with new writers and new spaces - for the gamble has paid off.

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* Showing at the National Theatre, Paintframe, South Bank, SE1, until Saturday, September 10.