Dates: 23-26 October 2019
Venue: The Two Brewers, Chelmsford
Review – Katherine Tokley (independent reviewer)
I am always keen to support new writing. It is borne from the heart and a passion to get the writer’s untold story out to the public, regardless of other commitments of paid work and restricted time. It takes gall, determination and faith that you will be supported in producing, directing, even finding a platform for your piece to be performed to the public. Danny Segeth has provided such a rare platform for just these writers in the form of The Mad Apple Collective. The Two Brewers off-shoot premises outside of the pub has provided just that – a self contained space with all the requirements for writers and actors alike to showcase their ideas and talents. A Hundred Days was no exception.
The stage was small, and littered with rubbish amidst very realistic tree stumps, where our lone actor sat for the opening scene. Music was sensitive to the size of the space, lighting effectively used to focus on one woman sitting amongst what once was a living wood. Her plight was that which she shared with the nation – in one hundred days, according to the news reports and ecological experts, life would no longer be sustainable on Earth. We had reached a crisis. With a news report holding the same weight as when the Twin Towers of America were attacked, cracked voices of politicians reported, no less, that the end was nigh unless we drastically changed our ways. We saw our narrator of the tale, Emily (played flawlessly by Lisa Wakely) torn between the daily struggle of family living and normality and the overbearing enormity of the end of days as we knew them. Mentions of her mother’s reaction and other voices played as if recorded in the pub showed us the yawning gap between the urgency of the situation and the denial of the masses she had to overcome. As the story progressed and the days began to count down, Emily felt no choice but to take action, despite being a mother to an 11 year old girl who tried in vain to help her mother, only to be whisked away to Middlesborough by her overprotective grandmother following a minor injury. By this time, Emily was too blindsided by her mission to ‘do her bit’ and clear a local woodland she had fond memories of as a child, now a local dumping ground strewn with litter.
Hope was glimpsed at times that she would receive support in her one woman mission – a news reporter came and took her photo, and she told us of areas she had finally cleared, only for more waste dumped, the news reporter never doing his job. Emily maintained her faith that if each person made a small gesture, we could all be saved, and her frustration increased throughout her performance. In such close proximity to the action, one could feel her increasing frustration that no-one was listening, no-one was doing more.
Act two brought us more drama and tension, as she finds herself pursued by two men who repeatedly came to dump more waste and thwart her efforts. Lisa, with her eloquent and confident delivery, was able to raise the tension simply by her tone, with minimal movement or props, or even another actor, and described the terror she felt within her flimsy tent whilst these men gathered outside. I could truly relate to the threat a lone female may face in any situation, let alone in trying to save the earth. It led back to how powerless we can sometimes really feel, despite our strength within ourselves and our fight for a good cause.
I found this writing fascinating as it was so relate-able. The subject matter of the current extinction rebellion demonstrations in London, and the divide it has caused between their message and our perception of another bunch of ‘Eco warriors’ with another excuse to cause havoc. How suffocating our city has become with yet another supermarket rising from scrub land off an already choked roundabout pushing yet more commercialism and greed. Too soon will Chelmsford have a London postcode and a tube station as our sprawling city reaches further and further out. Our roads are jammed. Housing is critical. At some point the status quo of existence will be tipped out of our favour. This cleverly written play dealt with a huge topic through one woman sitting in the woods, determined to make a difference. The ending with a sting in its tail however really threw the viewer. She paid for her cause with her freedom, and seeing her daughter grow up. But she got the job done. Which begs the question: There is always a price; are you willing to pay it?
This was well directed by Helen and Ian Willingham, who informed me it became more collaborative as rehearsals went on. Set design was overseen by Nicola Rushen, who focused on simplicity which was effective. I could not believe the tree-stumps were not real. Some very clever ingenuity was used here.
I look forward to seeing their next production.
Cast: Lisa Wakely
Production Team: Ian Willingham, Helen Willingham, Nicola Rushen and Laura Hill