'Prepare to be immersed in the heat and vibrancy of Florida's natural world, full of such sensual detail that to read it is to breathe it in.' -Jo Shapcott [review of Greyhound Night Service]

'Untitled': a dramatic reading

@ The Rialto theatre bar, Brighton

Last week I was asked to participate (as a late-minute stand in) in a dramatic reading of the play 'Untitled' by Brighton-based writer, Katy Matthews. I've been involved in dramatic poetry readings before and I've been on stage as an actor in my youth amateur dramatic society, but I had never been part of a dramatic play reading in front of an audience.

After a quick rehearsal and some extra coffee to bolster us, we assumed our places on stage, seated in a half-round with photographs of our characters in front of us so the audience could have an idea of who / what we were.  I say 'what', as Matthews' play contains some very interesting not-quite-human characters. The premise of the play is the coming-to-life of paintings and other art work as the main character, Gert, comes to terms with her life's work in the art world, a collection that is, untitled.  The most hilarious of these characters is Buster, a marble bust of a Roman general, who is polite enough to take tea with visitors, to chip in his two cents worth of commentary on everything from relationships to ageing, to the state of dustiness in his confines.

The play came off superbly well, with the particular expertise of the readers.  I myself cannot really take credit for much as I only read stage directions and the nearly-inaudible French mumblings of a Picasso figure who was only soothed by chewing gum for awhile.  All in all, it was a great performance and it was interesting to watch the main readers bring their characters to life without the help of stage movement, props or set.  The rapport between them, especially in some of the snarkier scenes, where barbed words threatened to overspill into physical action, meant that I really had to hold back my laughter to stay focused on when and where I had my next line.

Being part of this play reading was an experience I'll never forget. Matthews' play is one I would now love to see in a full stage production. Watching the characters come to life, from their paintings and plinths, would now add a completely new dimension to the life that oozes from their powerful dialogue and status play on the page.

Cast of the dramatic reading of 'Untitled', The Rialto Theatre, Brighton 26 May:

Caroline Cooke - Gert
Daniel Beales - Buster
Nick Duke - all the other men!
Katie Child - Lady
Sophia Behn - Young Gert
Liz Bahs:  stage directions / Dora