Saturday, 5 September 2015

Theatre review: The Win Bin

A satire on arts funding cuts takes a surreal turn in Kate Kennedy and Sara Joyce's The Win Bin: There is now only enough cash for one person a year to get a job in the arts, and it's to be decided by a behind-closed-doors mix of interview day and talent show. After a series of preliminary rounds - which may or may not have involved Rock, Paper, Scissors - six finalists have been found, all played by Kennedy and Wilf Scolding. The three men and three women pair off after a while: A photographer's project documents his life after being dumped; it turns out the ex-girlfriend in question is another of the candidates, a highly-strung puppeteer. An unprepared but charming choreographer flirts with a comic book artist - but is he just trying to put her off? We don't see much of the third pair - whose talents appear to be taxidermy and "trying to put her whole fist into her mouth" - they cower nervously in a corner while the other four implode.

The recorded voices of Aaron Heffernan, Jack Gleeson and Katie McCarthy provide the unseen taskmasters who disinterestedly give the contestants their vague instructions; they also serve as the inner monologues of the comic book artist, who tries to stay in control by keeping track of ways she might have impressed the judges.

Joyce also directs The Win Bin, which starts very strongly: There's a lot of energy as the pair of actors jump from character to character, differentiating between them by accent - Scolding is also particularly good at making it clear which contestant he's playing just by his stance. They have good comic timing and some strong jokes to deliver. Although short, the show does lose steam after a while - the vagueness of the tasks may be part of the point, but it leaves the show feeling like it's run out of ideas, and it ends with a whimper not a bang. Essentially it's a bit too long to stretch its premise out to, and a bit too short to develop its dark side: The puppeteer tries to impress the judges by self-harming (all mimed, but with some grisly sound effects from Paul Freeman.) So The Win Bin doesn't quite live up to its initial promise, but thanks to an appealing cast and a few more good one-liners, it doesn't outstay its welcome either.

The Win Bin by Kate Kennedy is booking until the 26th of September at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

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