Emergence Season marks two new original filmed plays from Mull Theatre with new director Beth Morton at the helm. Both have beautiful and evocative cinematography and lighting from Jamie Wardrop and haunting music from Simon Liddell.
Undocumented by Anita Vettesse is a two-hander which seems like a classic play about two very different lives colliding. But what unravels is a sharper examination of connection and how one ill- judged decision can cause people’s lives to tailspin. Pete (Simon Donaldson) is a tightly wound volunteer for the homeowner watch committee on a remote Scottish island. When outsider Jess (Ashley Smith) appears with a carrier bag, no luggage and no discernible reason for being there, he is understandably suspicious. Over the course of Vettesse’s play, the two find common ground in ways which eschew the dramatic clichés of unlikely people getting thrown together.
Both characters are troubled by circumstances seemingly beyond their control, and just when things seem particularly bleak, for Jess especially, there is, if not hope, some kind of resolution. As ever, Vettesse has a sharp nib and wonderful ear for dialogue. Donaldson and Smith are superb, bringing truth and vulnerability to two likeable, sympathetic characters.
Far more metaphysical is Oliver Emanuel’s play, Strange Rocks. A writer suffering from writer’s block finds a woman washed up on the shore and starts to imagine her life. But the usual tropes of female dead muse and genius male writer are explored by Emanuel, who skilfully dissects not only the creative process, the need to connect and love, but also the ways female characters in drama are often reduced to ciphers, with men imposing their own reductive qualities onto the roles. Again, Smith and Donaldson shine under Beth Morton’s assured direction, and the result is a meditative, wry and thoughtful look at lost souls finding a safe place to land.