Hot Air

Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2 – 22 August 2009

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog

If the director feels the need to stand on stage following the curtain call and announce that the show is still being revised and all feedback is welcome, it’s probably too early to be inviting the press. I suspect that when new company Ten Pence Short invited the London Theatre Blog to the preview of their debut production, Hot Air, they weren’t after a review so much as a bit of feedback to aid revision, and perhaps a couple of quotes for their Edinburgh Festival flyers.

Whether or not I suspect correctly, I don’t feel it would be fair to measure an unfinished piece of work with the same yardstick as an Olivier Theatre production. So listen up, Ten Pence Short! By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll only be Eight Pence Short, because I’m giving you my two pence. Boom tish.

Notes for Laura Cairns, playwright: you obviously have a strong grasp of the nuts and bolts of drama. You’ve got two characters who don’t get on, and a reason why they’re forced to endure one another’s company, creating conflict, which is the essence of drama. And a social networking site dedicated to burgling the recently deceased? I applaud your inventiveness, although I’m not sure you’ve really thought the idea through.

Other than that the play is a bit depthless. The characters reveal information about themselves, but neither one changes or learns anything. You raise potentially interesting moral questions without exploring them. The ticking clock is a tried and trusted method for generating tension, but you defuse it anticlimactically with a deus ex machina ending that excuses you and your characters from actually facing any of the moral challenges you set up. Lose the final phone call, or have it come too late.

Notes for Nick Bruckman, director: there’s enough comic material in the scenario and the lines that you probably don’t need to resort to silly physical business to get laughs. Also, there’s a scene in Hot Fuzz with an amdram production of Romeo and Juliet that ends in a bonkers song and dance number; compare and contrast the end of Hot Air.

Notes for Laura Cairns (Margot) and Alice Dooley (Elizabeth): Margot is highly strung and Elizabeth is excitable and a bit dim. For 40 minutes. Free Fringe audiences will walk out the moment their attention starts to drift.

A quote for your flyers: “Hot Air is unflinchingly daft.” With a bit of revision, you might be able to up that to “a darkly comic and surrealist ode to the detached and decaying morality of the internet age” – but you aren’t there yet.

Written by Laura Cairns

Crew includes Nick Bruckman (director)

Cast includes Laura Cairns (Margot), Alice Dooley (Elizabeth)

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