Review: Off Centre - What Happens Next? WMC
It's weird going to a show where the flyer has your face on it when you haven't directly been involved in it. Last year, I was a member of Off Centre, the Wales Millennium Centre's drama group. Through work with them, I was able to create a monologue, a radio play and establish further performance opportunities. I can speak very highly of the experience; I may consider joining them again soon.
In their most recent piece, director Jennifer Hartley (the plays themselves are directed by participants) got test audiences to express opinions of plays in progress - from writers in the company. These audiences had the power to change the stories and turn the dramas on their head, for interesting perspectives. It never felt artificial and, with each play sequenced around one another, it regularly followed well.
The four plays were Ring of Fire by Jack Muir, Beacon of Hope by Lisa Harris, Does Your Uncle Like Custard by Chris Williams and Blue Eyed Boy by Sherall Morris. They tackled the themes of disability, regret, peer pressure, alcoholism, hate crimes, sexuality and soft porn Japanese TV shows. They conveyed much honesty and integrity. You feel these are written from the heart and, as Hemingway put it: "Write hard and clear about what hurts."
The cast are varying levels of performance ability. The lack of fear and trekking on with shows has always been an admired skill in the company.
Jack Muir was a bitter, yet insightful news reporter. He introduced the plays and gave spoof headlines, such as "Woman stuck in pool table in Llanelli, purely due to the lack of things to do there." Chris Williams, acting in his own play, is a dry and stilted humour with an anorak-y charm. Some new and old faces brought to the table new colours and perspectives.
A surprise appearance from Stephen Casey (who I worked with last year on National Theatre Wales' Mametz) was an added delight. Seeing this professional actor work with our little ensemble meant a great deal to me and no doubt the cast as well. Him blasting at a Big Issue seller (something we have all perhaps been tempted to do) had me bellowing with laughs, and he later did it twice more to a Christian and a local MP.
The WMC have done a better job with promoting this, with flyers and a listing on the event page (which can't be said for previous shows that we did).
Further shows are a must and, to maintain better publicity, social media is vital to keep the group in a healthy, creative environment.
Rating: 3 Stars
For more information and to get involved with Off Centre, please visit their website.
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Image Credit: Jennifer Hartley-Ortiz