Littleness, a little play about little people in a little town, was Theatre with Teeth’s offering for Exeter’s term 3 under the society’s new committee. Written by Fergus Church and directed by himself and Ellen Victoria, the play revolves around Littleness, a town in the West Midlands. The production was aptly placed in the small venue of Old Timers on Little Castle Street. A venue that could host no more than 40 audience members, Old Timers added to the intimacy of the piece and reflected the endearingly mismatched nature of the play’s characters.
Set in a little town where nothing much happens, the biggest event of Littleness is its summer fête and the question of who’s going to win the annual flower arranging competition that year. Marthë Taylor played Verity, the determined florist suffering from acute hay fever, with comic timing that was charismatic and endearing in equal measure. Joe Miller played her close friend, Christopher, with endearing sincerity. Portraying an elderly widow is no easy task for a student, but Miller gave the role sweet vulnerability which tugged on all our heart strings. Katherine Lea and Callum Newens played the younger residents of Littleness. Lea gave her character a vibrant, and somewhat scrappy, tone which provided light relief after Miller’s more emotional moments. Newens played the ‘awkward new guy’ stereotype well, and it fitted in with the lovable residents of the town nicely. The script itself was rife with puns and quirky one-liners, and, clearly knowing the audience he was writing for, Church had them chuckling from start to finish.
Charming though it was, the script and direction of Littleness seemed a little rushed. Running for only 50 minutes, there was not enough time to be introduced to and sympathise with each of the four characters fully. Though their individual monologues allowed the audience to understand their history and current position a little more, the equal distribution of their stage time meant that I did not particularly warm to any character. The monologues, designed to provide more intimate moments with the characters, were additionally hindered by the concurring scene changes. Whilst one character was pouring out their heart and soul, the other actors would set the stage for the next scene around them. This proved very distracting, and led to my attention being drawn to the scene transitions rather than each character’s personal story. Having said that, the set itself was colourful and quaint, reflective of its small town setting and was imaginatively created and used during the performance. Credit must go to the stage team, as well as the production’s puppet creator, Emma Baskeyfield for creating a gorgeous array of animals which truly came to life on stage.
T3 hosts work which are often seen as ‘scratch’ performances, work in progress performances, and Littleness was no exception. Without a doubt, Littleness has charming potential and the possibility to become a truly lovely piece of work. However, under the time constraints of the summer term, I fear the play has suffered somewhat. Should Littleness be given the platform to be re-performed it would have the opportunity to smooth over any rough edges; be that in the development of character and story line or the overall presentation of the piece.