THEATRE REVIEW: Pieces, Rosemary Branch Theatre

running until 12 July 

Requires a little more development, but this group of plays offers the opportunity to see a versatile actor tackling some sensitive and poignant dialogue 

Pieces-page-imgSpare Parts Theatre Company was established in 2006 with rather special aim: to raise awareness of transplants and dialysis through performance. If this seems a very specific focus for a theatre company, the variety in Pieces is impressive, as the six short works explore different individuals, situations and expressions of emotion, all centring on a transplantee or their loved ones. Heart, lungs, cornea, kidney – the specifics of the biology don’t seem too important. What is striking is their stories and the way in which performer Steven Mortimer and director Peter Eastland weave together each tale as one fluid piece.

Five different writers contributed to the programme of six works and, as always with this type of production, some work more successfully than others. Runners by Eastland and Mortimer is the weaker of the set, and Mortimer’s performances also feels the most unsure here. There’s certainly promise in the tale of a twin reliving both the rivalries of his upbringing and his brother’s transplant; yet currently both the tone and character are pitched awkwardly, and needs stronger direction to become more moving and memorable. Eastland’s Giraffe also suffers from tonal issues: while it has powerful moments, the character shifts too far and too quickly to make a believably rounded personality.

However, other pieces shine much more brightly. The success of the simplicity of Pieces‘ production values, alongside Mortimer’s honesty as a performer, are both shown to their full extent in That Other You (Eastland) in which a father sits by the bedside of his five-year-old daughter as she awaits a transplant, reflecting both on the bleakness of her situation and the joys of what might have been. Equally effective is Regenerations! (Robert Wallis), the first of two pieces in which Mortimer skilfully uses the tone and innocent attitude of a child to ask some intriguing questions about the process of transplant. As a young boy prepares to undergo his operation, his love of Doctor Who becomes entwined with his imagined version of his transplant – if part of him is replaced, will he become a different person? Who will he be when he awakes?

Pieces succeeds in its aim of raising awareness of the experiences of transplant patients and anyone affected by the issues surrounding them. Yet it’s not merely a didactic evening, as – with a little more development in some areas of the script – this group of plays offers the opportunity to see a versatile actor tackling some sensitive and poignant dialogue. With all proceeds from the Edinburgh PBH Free Fringe run going to a range of charities, it’s well worth a visit at the Serenity Café (venue 248) this August.

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