Lockdown review: Saplings 2.(O)nline

With the need for lockdown and social distancing, Bloom Theatre have developed work from four writers to bring a second Saplings festival to the screen. The longest play, Paper Cuts, will be reviewed separately.

Earthlight is by Jack Albert Cook. Directed by Nieta Irons, this is about the first woman on the moon (played with warmth laced with ennui by Melissa Phillips), on her own.

“Everything is fake in here. I miss air, and trees and birds.” A tale of personal isolation, but from a different perspective. A familial loss, but not from the pandemic. A return to normal after a petiod of time alone. A sense of freedom, and failure.

With sound effects and glimpses of the world of space, this does well to bring us into the setting across a nine minute running time.

Judd Launder and Joshua Glenister in Them and Us
Judd Launder and Joshua Glenister in Them and Us

Them and Us is by Matt Sanders, and directed by David Bolwell. It’s set in a public loo where we meet two policemen after they have come out the worst in a fight with a group of gay men.

Tommy (a nervous take from Judd Launder) and Bill (a strong turn from Joshua Glenister) are initially just homophobic thugs with hate in their hearts, but a surprising twist puts the play in a very different light.

“I just want to be happy”, says one to the other, but is it even possible?

Rhonwen Cash in Girls Just Wanna Have Funds
Rhonwen Cash in Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is by India Rodgers, directed by Ewa Dina. It is a short (25 minute) film built entirely from screen recordings, another innovative use of ways to create a performance in lockdown.

Mabel (Rhonwen Cash) needs money so she puts up a listing to sell her virginity, using her friend Florence’s (Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes) images from her webcam work.

With a current preoccupation in the media with material worth and an increase in sugar daddy support of young women, this play definitely feels both relevant and realistic.

Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes in Girls Just Wanna Have Funds
Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes in Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

From a technical point of view you even get the lag and overlapping sound of FaceTime calls, Messenger pop-ups, texts and screen issues. Excellent performances from both actors keep the narrative moving.

Who is being exploited, who is being empowered? Who is pulling the strings? What is the real nature of control and coercion? And is technology a good or a bad thing?

Bloom Theatre logo

Again, Bloom Theatre have brought thoughtful and intelligent work to the (this time, digital) stage, with refreshing scripts and tight direction.

Both SaplingsRecorded and Saplings 2.0 are well worth watching. Catch up with both series at Bloom Theatre’s YouTube channel.

Saplings 2.0 is free to view.