It takes a bold, brave, and bullish soul to try out new work right now, when so many venues and smaller companies are struggling to put bums on seats at shows in the current climate. Thankfully, writer and company founder, Christopher Sainton-Clark is one of those souls, clearly displaying the belief that if the quality of your work is good enough, then people will come.
And on opening night of the Last Shot & Confess double-bill, the people did come, and my heart was warmed to see such a decent crowd on a Thursday evening, all enthusiastic to see the darkly comic treats that Raising Cain Productions had produced between them.
The small company hadn’t had the smoothest day ahead of the show, given that one of the three actors had succumbed to illness that morning, leaving Christopher Sainton-Clark to step in at the last moment. However, if there were any jitters because of the no doubt unsettling beginning to their mini-tour, they really didn’t show.
As far as the stories themselves went, they both elicited that unmistakeable claustrophobic feel that Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton achieve so expertly in the wonderful Inside No.9. This was particularly evident in Confess, which takes place in a community centre, and where you’re never quite sure of the intentions of both the host and the two guests at the confession group. I felt the script for Confess was particularly strong, quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters really well-defined.
Throughout, actors Laura McQuiggin and Jack Tyler Fisher sparkled, giving clear definition to their different characters, never over-selling the comedy as can often be tempting with a script as funny as this one. They both offered skilled, earnest performances, allowing the comedy to shine through in the subtle way it was intended. It was a real shame the third actor of the trio was taken ill, as it would have been lovely to see the dynamic between the three of them, but Christopher did a more than passable job of deputising.
But my task as a reviewer isn’t just sycophantic arse-kissing, and I do have to take a critical look at things too. To that end, I do have a couple of critical observations. The first one concerns Last Shot, where I felt the characters weren’t quite well-developed enough. In particular, the character of the film director who was presumably supposed to be smarmy, entitled, and generally unlikeable, but seemed simply to be dealing with a difficult customer in the fallen movie star.
Also, while both plays didn’t feel like they came to an abrupt end, they were only around 30 mins in length each, which doesn’t give you a great deal of bang for your buck. I’m certainly not suggesting they charge less for tickets, nor do I think anyone will have felt short-changed, but it would have been nice to have a full evening’s entertainment. Always leave them wanting more, I guess.
Overall, there were twists and turns aplenty in the short amount of time afforded to the scripts. They were well-executed, well-acted, very funny, and highly engaging, ensuring you were never too far from your seat’s edge. I really do hope to see more from this young company. The tour continues around a few venues in East Anglia until the 31st October – don’t miss out!