Review: Reel Life (Folio Theatre, online)

Three characters, three locations, three long takes.

Folio Theatre’s debut show Reel Life, first seen in 2016, has now been reworked for the digital format.

Alys Metcalf’s play weaves a trio of tales together, while Adam Lenson’s direction keeps the piece fresh and interesting, exploring how theatre and film can be easy bedfellows.

Jo is struggling to assemble a fishing rod by a riverside. Huw reminisces about his marriage at a kitchen table. And two travellers, T and G, keep meeting in a non-descript location (something like the forest in Waiting for Godot) which soon becomes strongly connected with the other stories.

Screencap from Reel Life

Michael Palmer (Mark/T), Lizzie Stables (Jo) and Matt Tait (Huw/G) return to their roles from the stage version as the characters and plots start to make sense together. All give excellent and nuanced performances throughout.

Reel Life feels like a commentary on life and loss. It flirts with both the mundane and the absurd, with Huw’s monologue adding snippets of information as we go. All the stories underline the bureaucracy and bizarre nature of life in miniature.

Metcalf’s play looks at how we process the good and bad in life, and how we might all have more in common than we think. It navigates how we catch hold of and let go of things as we get older, and how friendships can build in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Screencap from Reel Life

The story of One and Two takes place in what looks most like a traditional stage, but is is set anywhere but, with sound effects giving you a clue. As this story collides with that of Jo at one particular point, it is a fiercely original take on simple pleasures. To say more would spoil the surprise if you choose to watch.

Reel Life as a film benefits from opening out its fishing location to a real riverbank, with all its natural sense and beauty. You may feel some confusion at first before all the pieces start to fit, but it is worth sticking with this one-act piece to the end, with its humour and pathos.

You can watch Reel Life via theatre screening and online sharing via Shaftesbury Theatre, Dawlish on 9 April or via online sharing via the Princess Theatre, Burnham-on-Sea, with further dates to be announced: details and links here.