The upstairs room of the George Tavern is one of those places you read about in books when you were a kid. At the top of a flight of narrow stairs is a shabby, musty, inviting little space, outrageously wallpapered and decrepitly atmospheric. It’s the kind of place where something magic might happen.
The audience for DryWrite _____ crowded into corners, perched on rickety chairs, climbed on the furniture, sat cross-legged on the stage, and generally made themselves at home in this cosy den, for a charmingly chaotic evening of new writing. The actors held each other’s pints, and climbed over chairs to get to the stage, laid-back and intrepid, most with scripts in hand.
The premise of the event is anonymity: no-one knows who wrote what. And, just to keep things interesting, the theme of the evening is also a secret. Hence DryWrite _____. So part of the fun is attempting to work out what connects the twelve disparate fragments, which seemed to me to cluster around ideas of solitariness, loss, and thwarted attempts to get crucial words heard by the right person.
There’s a crowd-pleasing short about the perils of sticking your hand in a vase, and possibly also the way communication is hardest at precisely the times we need it most. A neatly observed and pithily played row escalates manically towards an unexpected denouement. There’s a densely-written snapshot of the contrary channels of family grief. And the intimate, interior monologue of a girl lying awake after her first rebound shag, unwillingly meditating upon the fragility of affection.
The second act brings a strange little study of ordinary people slipping over the edge, perplexing, but containing the striking, sinister image of the “monkey smile”. And a very funny vignette about painting, and language, and things that just can’t be explained. Last on the bill is a violent, foul-mouthed, comic-book-punchy analysis of why one football team is better than another.
In keeping with the spirit of the thing, I’m not going to tell you who wrote and acted what. In fact, I can’t. But what I can report is that DryWrite have created a relaxed, supportive forum for new ideas and new writing, a truly impressive and important achievement. They also seem to have created a community of writers, actors and directors, plus a miscellany of other misfits and enthusiasts, gathering together for the sheer joy of imagining, and joking, and telling stories together. And that’s an even more remarkable achievement.