Alphabetti’s Listen In is an engaging trio of short audio plays loosely themed around the idea of theatre and performance, both from the perspective of those on and off stage. Created with the accessibility ethos of the theatre’s programming in mind, the production is both ‘pay what you feel’ and fully subtitled, so the plays can be ‘watched’ as well as listened to, with the sweeping, atmosphere-setting virtual tour of the venue beforehand also audio described.
This walkaround introduction, a poignant wander around an empty theatre, nicely sets the scene for the plays, all of which are firmly grounded in the location. Lauren Pattison’s The Last Laugh is about a show on Alphabetti’s stage, while Richard Boggie’s The Interval takes place in its bar. While you don’t need to be familiar with the venue (or indeed the city) to enjoy them – both deal with fairly universal themes – it’s refreshing to see online work so anchored in place. One of the things live theatre can do so well is reflect its surroundings, changing and evolving in response to both venue and audience, and seeing that done here – and done well – makes me realise just how much I’d missed that aspect of seeing things live.
Each of the three pieces has much to commend it, and they mesh together nicely as a cohesive listening experience. A compact running time means there isn’t an ounce of spare flesh on the production, Jonluke McKie’s direction keeping things tightly paced but also not afraid to let things breathe a moment, an approach that lets the writing and performances shine through.
The show comes out of the gate strong with The Last Laugh, Lauren Pattison’s self-performed tragi-comic monologue about a comedian dealing with the aftermath of a very bad show indeed. Sharp and funny but with an unexpected bite, it nicely utilises Pattison’s comic flair.
A more serious offering is The Interval, Richard Boggie’s rueful and tender piece about dealing with a partner’s addiction, performed with empathy by Carl Kennedy. Taking a different tack entirely, the final segment is local rapper Kay Greyson’s autobiographical piece An Empty Room, which mixes live music (you’ll likely log out with at least one of her songs stuck in your head) and personal recollection. There’s a bittersweet timeliness to this piece, as she recounts an early gig in a near-deserted social club, and the gift of that experience – the realisation that her need to perform and create wasn’t defined by the size of the audience – which feels especially relevant in the wake of a year of empty venues.
Ending on a declaration of self-belief and possibility, Greyson’s self-performed monologue closes the night on a note of defiant optimism. This is reinforced as the camera once more swoops around Alphabetti’s empty environs, taking us out of the stage door, into the street, walking us past the main entrance. There we wait, for just a moment, watching as the shutters slowly roll up, ready to welcome us back.
Listen In runs online until 15th May. More info here.