One of the best things about small theatre venues set above pubs is that you get two experiences for the price of one – the atmosphere of the pub and the pint that goes along with it and the intimate world of the darkened room upstairs where the play takes place – and these are often two quite contrasting experiences, so interesting just for that. It is also a reminder of the commercial reality that the pint subsidizes the small art spaces and helps give a voice to what otherwise would have no space.

FREEDOM TO BE ME, which is a new production of the BYT Company, a workshop company set up by Director Ed Cottrell who also appears in the production. This is improv (isation) where unscripted scenes are developed from audience suggestions or props, sometimes contributed by the audience as well and the actors are challenged to create a story on the spot from minimal prompts or resources. Although the evening begins with a set-piece from each of the performers relating to suppression, exploitation and prejudice, this is a brief episode which passes into the main improvisation which can and does wander where it will.

The improvisation here is done primarily by three young women, with occasional support from colleagues, including Ed Cottrell, who participate in the improvised scenes. It’s hard to know what to expect because each performance will be different but you do get a sense of the individual actor’s personality from the way they respond to the demands of the improvised performance. The three principal actors each have a different style of performance and expression. Winnie Arhin, who sparkles with an evidently open imagination and humour, Polly Chiu, serious, reserved, musical, and Nina Schlautmann, actively making her presence felt in what little space there was. Ed Cottrell’s direction adds a sort of centre and gravitas to the trio. A fun evening for those happy to take the pot-luck chances that improv presents and see what young performers can do.

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