Reel Life by Folio Theatre Company

reel life
Reel Life by Folio Theatre

My dealings with Folio Theatre Company began last year when I attended the launch night for Wimbledon’s studio theatre’s festival Illuminate. Whilst at the launch night I saw a promotion video for a play called Unearthed that spiked my interest. I therefore went along to watch Unearthed and was very impressed, so much so that I mentioned them as a company to watch out for in my interview with Stagedoor App (read the full interview here) and named Unearthed as my favourite play of 2015.

When I heard that they had a new offering called Reel Life by Aly’s Metcalf (who also wrote Unearthed) which was on for 1 night in London at St James Theatre I had to go along to see part of their ‘preview’ run. I had no idea what to expect other than the fact that it was very different to Unearthed.

When I arrived I learnt that Unearthed had been developed through an initiative called RE:Act at St James’ Theatre, a scheme that they run where playwrights write a response to a piece of theatre on at St James’ main house. To my luck Reel Life was written in response to Songs For A New World by Jason Robert Brown, a show that I adore and I also had the good fortune to see and review. (Read my review on Songs For A New World at St James’ Theatre here.)

reel-lifeReel Life takes themes such as memory and loss from Songs for a New World and spins it into its own story. The play is made up of 3 elements, one element tells of Jo (played by Lizzie Stables) and Mark (played by Michael Palmer), 2 strangers that meet by a river bank and over time develop a bond. The second element is Huw’s tale (played by Matt Tait) which is a series of monologues about his previous partner and the third tells of ‘One and ‘Two’ (also played by Michael and Matt) another story of friendship. The masterstroke of this play however is the relationship between these 3 elements of the story. I don’t want to say much more as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that does see the play in the future however these separate elements and their relationship with the other takes the audience on a journey of frustration to realisation to humour and finally to sadness, no mean feat for a one act play.

Reel Life is well cast, with Michael and Matt switching between characters with ease and Lizzie and Michael developing a good rapport on stage. The show was directed by Adam Lenson (who also directed Songs For A New World). Despite the small space and limited budget Lenson did an admirable job of utilising the simple set and effects available to him. He also struck the balance well of crediting the audience with enough intelligence of absorbing and digesting the plot intricacies themselves but at the same time giving them the tools to do so.

Reel Life is the perfect example of why theatre goers need to get out and see and support new writing and why theatres such as St James should be applauded for initiatives such as RE:Act.

Whilst plans for development and further productions of Reel Life are still in the pipeline you can still support Folio theatre company with their production of Unearthed at St James theatre on the 29th March. Click here for further info.

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