On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of watching a new play on its opening night in the intimate setting of The Bike Shed Theatre. Written by third year student Simon Marshall and directed by the founders of A&E Productions, Alice Wordsworth and Erin Blackmore, Zips was put on as part of The Bike Shed’s ‘From Devon with Love’ festival. Set in the sleepy town of Teignmouth, the story is one of restlessness, of coming of age, and of finding your place in the world.
The theatre is probably the smallest I’ve ever been in (literally, the size of a bike shed) and thus the stage itself was tiny. With no wings for the actors to retreat to, all members of the cast were on stage at all times. This meant that those who weren’t in the scene sat either side with their backs to the stage space, and I have to commend their ability to remain unnoticed while doing so. Being a highly character-driven performance, there wasn’t much in the way of set but they worked well with what they had, especially with the use of fairy lights – I have to admit I am a sucker for fairy lights.
The play was both poetic and light-hearted. In direct address and in storytelling, we followed sixth-form student Dan (Tobias Grace) and his struggles with sexuality, friendship, and growing up. The relationship between him and his fiery sister, Eliza (Eden Hastings), was lovely to watch, with a strong performance from both actors.
Set against the darker undertones of loneliness were many humorous moments, the majority of which were endlessly relatable in today’s society: the parents being more obsessed with social media, Facebook and its quizzes than the teenage generation is just so relevant (really – even my Grandma downloaded Snapchat).
“I think I want to be button” and not a zip, Dan says. “A button takes time to undo… It’s prettier, I suppose”. Filled with charming metaphors such as this one, Zips was a warm and entertaining production, and I hope to see more of Marshall’s writing performed on stage in the future.
A&E Productions has their own Facebook page,if you want to find out more about them, or would like to collaborate on a new production.