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A sense of calm is rarely associated with Practical Essays. Unless, of course, it comes before a storm, and with twenty-two Third Years, perhaps you’d expect a middling maelstrom or a tickling tornado at the very least. There has been a Get Your Own Back gunging, some smashed (sugar)-glass and a spatter of actual mudslinging but no storm.

Rachel A. sparked us off by asking some complex questions about theatre’s illusions. We’re all complicit and there’s no escape. Even if the fourth wall and a lovely view are broken and a young woman continues to pretend that she is an older Irish lady before becoming a fit boy. Rose got covered in green, gloopy sugar, ate some spice and it wasn’t very nice but we were with her all the way. Our blushes serving as surreal comfort, we sang a finely rhymey song and fell crazy in love.

Humphrey attacked the shells we set up for ourselves, online and face to acting face. Captions, comments, answer-phones and hair all came in for a shave and were left a little lopsided as a result. All the while, the attempt to escape performance by performing made our brains lose a little more than furry insulation. Annie took the party hat next, snapping it  tightly on her character’s heads as we went to a celebration for the non-existent sister of a psychopath known as ‘Lovely Sarah’. The physical exertion demonstrated by Phoebe and Jake as they strove for murder and protection respectively was exhausting even in the comfy seats and we were all reminded that acTORS mostly just work in pubs. Julie gazed upon originality and came up with nothing. From rabidly pursued books to quotes mashed up to make sense and no sense in the same second, the audience were left without words to comfort them, lest they themselves rehash.  Phoebe made her actors leave themselves at the door with audio of several people piped into their ears. Sweet children, war veterans and her dad were all on stage but not in person, their voices, idiosyncrasies and accents floating through those of others. Nothing was lost in translation.

I must be honest now, as I did not catch was Christie’s. I did hear some thumping Lady Gaga and saw some face-cake and fake tan so it must have been a corker. Next was a trip into a trap Meghann couldn’t escape. Tormented by uncontrollable thoughts and their bright, belligerent and bullying insistence that suppression would be wrong, we were left questioning the relationship between thinking and doing on an incredibly intricate level.

Josh took a backward fall into the subject of trust, escorting the audience into the dark with only six small torches to guide them. Trust was abused and renewed but the guiding light was always the faith of the performer. You may not agree with his belief but after learning of his deep understanding of the issue at hand, it doesn’t matter. Alex K. signed us along an adventure with two little girls, two giants and two busy, bossy bottoms in a charming piece of children’s theatre. The message was clear and clean. If you want to get dirty then throwing mud at someone is the best way to go about it. Rachael M. took a gander and gender and how its construction is just that. As she and Milly swap from one pole to the other the audience realise that ‘extra’ hair, or slathered cupcake icing, doesn’t make you manly. We’re different but the same, and that’s fine.

Day two began with Louise zooming in on preservation’s falsehoods. We can strive all we like to live as long as possible and protect those we love but in the end it won’t matter unless there is that end. Life has to be lived in order to earn that lofty title. Sophie gives a voice to women in the army, young and old, captain and lieutenant, veteran and recruit. The audience may not like the forces but cannot help but acknowledge that those who choose them know life and bravery more intimately than most, no matter if some wear pink cardies on days off.

Again, honesty must prevail and I have to admit that I missed Milly’s. Truth was attempted, questioned and ultimately left a little worse for wear, even if it ended up wearing a strangely circular skirt. A fight for Scarlett’s achievements led the audience to wonder if the person we became is the one we wanted to be? Does it matter if not? And just who is going to clean up all this paper?! Laura asked if six degrees of separated Bacon (sorry) is actually too many. We’re always looking for the things that make us different but we should celebrate the things that make us the same. It’s where we find the people who we would gladly wade through water for, even if some of it does get on Studio 1’s floor.

Chris took us to a franglish café where he and Humphrey attempt to entertain us with songs, sketches, silences and sleights of hand. It’s just a shame that the fact ‘they’re trying’ presented a second definition to the audience. It’s all deliberately awful of course, and the peels of laughter showed the post-modernism didn’t collapse under the image of its own weight. Now, for the third and last time, I have to say I missed something. Sam’s documentary on the Coca-Cola Company was a piece I should have seen, considering how much of their titular product I drink. Informative and balanced, except for Daisy the ungainly bottle-fed cow, Mr. Reeves quenched a thirst too often conveniently dismissed. Alex W. stared at the faces we insist on bolting to our real ones, only to forget that’s what we’ve done. We become behemoths of mania, flirtation, arty-farting and desperation when all we want is to be okay most of the time, with people who will let us. Vicki was forced to bear her core, with a little help from some old onions, while a clown and a director continued a long-standing tiff. Make-up was slathered on and swiped off, and a few battles were lost and won but it seemed the war would continue between art and entertainment, though more heads might end up some others’ tails in the process.

Throughout the day, two durational performances took place. Mark’s secret venue took us to the ‘hidden’ underground of the Workshop Theatre. But his issue was that as soon as even the first audience knew about it, it was no longer hidden. If secrets are known then they aren’t secrets, they’re just stories until their bricked back up. Finally, Jake’s piece confessed other people’s stories, whether happy, sad or simply there. Each had been gathered in the preceding months or on the day itself and was added to the dripping sculpture behind him. Cans of worms they may have been but the stories bore anonymity and so the last bean was never spilled.









So much energy goes into twenty minutes that you feel sure something will explode. So, it’s always a nice surprise when, even if things didn’t go to plan, you don’t need a bang to make something spectacular. And the Third Years of the Workshop Theatre keep doing it. It’s a lovely thing and that’s because the WT attracts lovely things. No one can take away the impressions left by the Practical Essays. They’re not burned onto your brain. No, nothing as violent as that. They swim through it, coming up for air every now and again, to give you a smile.