Theatre 503 ‘s much-loved Rapid Write Response programme staged its latest instalment on May 21st-22nd. It is open to writers of all levels of experience, who attend a full-run show in its first week and write a 10-minute play inspired by the production they saw.  With no limitations, they have a week to write, the 503 team select between 6 and 8 scripts which are staged at Theatre503 two weeks later.

This time Cordelia O’Neill’s second play No Place for a Woman was the inspiration – a play which centres on the survival of two very different women fighting against the same oppressor, a Commandant of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Featuring a diversity of emerging and established playwrights and a contingent of leading emerging female directors, the best 8 pieces, curated by Jack Paterson and produced by Michelle McKay, included Brian Eley’s The Subject and Yasmin Joseph’s Do You Pray, which closed out the first half, Act 1, and centred on the black British experience. Plus, JFW Nutt’s, Teeth, Shoes, which closed the show.

Directed by Paula David, Kaneesha Watts and Sabrina Richmond played the younger Woman A and the older Woman B in The Subject who are locked in the memories of a past shared traumatic experience perpetrated by the subject, now in exhibition in an art gallery. They have grown apart, but cannot escape the bitter-sweet reminiscences of their time in the team of the male activist before them, nor the complex nature of their feelings for the part each played. The Subject is a wonderfully subtle examination of a kind of post-traumatic distress, uniquely experienced by the women working or lobbying for a man they admire. The excellent interpretation and presentation by the talented director and actresses engaged the audience completely.

Directed by Rebekah Murrell, Michelle Greenidge played Evelyn, grandmother to Nicole Sawyer’s Nadine, estranged for several years in Do You Pray. On a rare visit to a home filled with Christian iconography, following her brother’s stylish wedding, Nadine goes in search of what she has always sought from her Nan – love. Evelyn finds it hard to accept Nadine’s profession of dancing, which she is sure is just another form of prostitution. Small talk soon dissolves into accusations and reassurances in which Nadine accuses Evelyn of wearing her hardship like a badge of honour, like many of her generation. Evelyn wants Nadine to preserve her self-respect. The play is a wonderful, layer-laden translation by the very young Joseph, resonating with so many conversations we’ve had and heard with our parents and grandparents who were directly affected by their emigration to these shores. It was made into so much more by the impressive direction of Murrell and presentation by the ever-excellent Greenidge and newcomer Sawyer – a mere 23 years old! It showcased Greenidge’s gift for comic timing and the emotion she can unleash on an audience. They deservedly earned cheers and enthusiastic applause for a job well done.

Directed by Olorunfemi Fagunwa, Reema Chandra played Roma, the stressed out working mum in JFW Nutt’s, Teeth, Shoes. She has 2 school-age boys in everything-but-get-ready mode on the weekday morning she has a big presentation of work. She worked hard on it, but forgot to save it… and the Nanny, Anoushka (an excellent Kelsey Short) is late. On the other side of the stage, Anoushka gets up in a good mood, bright and early, only to have a visit from a terrifying figure from her past. This 2-hander consisted of rapid fire, interdigitating monologues by the actresses on each side of the stage, their ‘sets’ occasionally overlapping, only coming together in the final moment. We learn of Anoushka’s terrible secret borne of a string of bad decisions, whilst her ‘tardiness’ forces Roma into a string of bad decisions of her own with which Nutt successfully mis-directs us, the audience. He perfectly encapsulates the mental load of working mums and the vulnerability of their households and of young women. Fagunwa cleverly flips expectations by having Anoushka played by a white actress initially in a Hijab, and Anoushka by an actress of Indian origin. The audience loved it, and I was left feeling that it was even more remarkable for having been written by a young man, and Chandra’s incredibly strong performance being a hobby outside of her day job!

These three, along with the first Act’s, In Her Bones (writer Fran Bushe, dir. Lucy Jane Atkinson, ftg. Jessica Sian and an excellent Cian Barry) – a cautionary tale about having full and frank discussions about meaningful exes before getting married; and the second Act’s That Blue Dress (writer Laura Shoebottom, dir. Rosa Crompton, ftg. Freddie Felton and Bronte Tadman) – the car-crash end to a whirlwind live-in relationship, were the highlights for me.

Also, presented in Act 1: Satisfied (writer William Berrington, dir. Courtney Larkin, ftg. Lindsay Huebner and Liam Webster). In Act 2: Escape Pod (writer Lucy Foster, dir. Katie Merritt ftg. Rebecca-Louise Brierly) and A Gradual Phase Out (writer Tom Lodge, dir. Nour-Ani Sisserian ftg. Stamata-Ann Katriuo, Guy Hodgkinson, Sofie Redland and Leo Fusco).


Rapid Write Response: No Place For A Woman showed at Theatre503 21st & 22nd May. For more information visit theatre503.com