Love Bites, ‘Apartment’ (Etcetera Theatre)

Sunday morning, 12th May, and waking up after the first and 156last performance of the Love Bites ‘Apartment’ plays is a bittersweet feeling. At the close of any show I have worked on there is always the relief of waking up with a day ahead of you that is completely your own – for me that has meant a long lie-in, a film in the afternoon and not having to get out of my pyjamas until well past midday…but you also wake up knowing that a chapter (albeit a small one) has closed.

My experience of working with Love Bites has been an entirely uplifting one – a confidence boost for a young creative still finding their feet, an opportunity to meet a team of highly talented like-minded individuals, and the opportunity to learn from them; and also a reinvigorated appetite for continuing to make and experience theatre.

The shows were a great success – with a crowded theatre on all three nights (including a waiting list on the last night!) – and great feedback from audiences who really appreciated experiencing grass roots theatre which was packed full of promise. For the first time in my directing experience I got to wait it out backstage with the actors and enjoyed soaking up their nervous energy and feeling the anticipation of the performances to come. No show goes by without its line fluffs, spilt kettles and slightly aimless set changes, but hearing the audience laugh and gasp, and seeing them coming out smiling made it all worthwhile, and it really felt like we’d pulled it all off in the end.

Craig Donaghy’s hilarious Zoned Out, performed by Thea Beyleveld as Gemma, was an excellent start to each evening. Gemma’s stream of consciousness, which verged on the politically incorrect at times, was delivered with a wide-eyed innocence which was both endearing and perfectly timed. Thea balanced Gemma’s naivety with a generous dose of over-sharing in a monologue about breaking up and the horrors of moving to zone 7.

Next up was Ziella Bryar’s play, Apartment 101, in which we peeked in on a highly-strung lawyer with an unexpected house guest. Hannah James as Kate, and Samuel Dent as Zak, played off each other brilliantly; Kate’s dry asides combating Zak’s new age, holistic optimism in a play which touchingly and humorously revealed the futility of revisiting past relationships which do nothing for one’s self-esteem or happiness.

Third up was The Favour by Jack Fiehn (and the play which I got the chance to direct). In The Favour we witness a couple in the throes of an awkward breakup and, even if I do say so myself, I think James Rose and Orion Ben gave engaging and extremely natural performances as Jason and Allison. Offering a slight change of tone from the previous two comedies, Jack’s play revealed the awkwardness and heartbreak of the end of a relationship, the implications of having to reveal the news to your family and friends, the inconvenience of needing to find somewhere else to live, and the uncertainty of knowing whether you really want it to finish at all.

The final performances of the evening came from James Rigby (as Joel) and Jamie Alderson (as Steve) in Daniel Frankenburg’s St Sebastian. A darkly funny piece about two men connected by the love of the same woman, the twists and turns of Daniel’s script made this one of the stand-out pieces of writing for me. From the initial ambiguity of Joel’s intentions towards Steve, to the gasp-inducing reveal by Steve at the end made this a very clever take on the theme of love and relationships, and tied up the evenings performances excellently.

It has been a fantastic experience working with all the people involved in Love Bites and I just wanted to finish off by thanking all those involved. Thanks to Ziella Bryars- producer, writer and director- Sophie Davies in casting, Katy Davies in media and PR, Orlanda Bryars and Zoe Hurwitz who helped out backstage, all the writers, directors (including Sophie Davies, Ziella Bryars and James Veitch) and actors, and to Etcetera Theatre for hosting the performances. It has been a privilege to work with all of you on the shows – thank you for all being so welcoming, friendly, and utterly professional, and I hope I’ll get the opportunity to work with all of you again in the future. I think the creative talent across the board is a real insight into the inventiveness and creativity which cries out to be tapped by the decision-makers in the industry, and hope to see Love Bites and similar projects continuing to flourish on fringes of London’s theatre scene.

Apologies if I have come across as sickeningly gushy about the whole experience, but I really would encourage all young writers, directors and actors who are currently based in London to get involved with Love Bites if they get the chance.  Details of their forthcoming opportunities are posted on their website, and you can follow them on twitter (@lovebitesplays) or like them on Facebook.

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