It is always a dilemma how to review a work in progress, especially one in the early stages of development. You can’t really critique the staging or performances and the script you hear now is likely to change considerably by the time the production process is completed.
It is with this dilemma in mind that I approach the intriguingly titled Liquorice and Smoke Rings, presented by the equally bizarrely named Leaning on Cows at the Pulse Fringe Festival.
This new play by Katie Bonna takes a non linear look at a group of teenagers growing up and in their early twenties. It’s a coming of age saga; love, angst and religion all taking a toll on those formative years.
Liquorice and Smoke Rings is purportedly also a play about music and here’s where the first problem arises. The company have chosen to stage this reading with a company of actor musicians providing a live underscore. In theory the concept of the discordant noise in the lead characters head seems a (forgive the pun) sound one. In practice however the score adds little to the piece, instead serving only to distract and drown out the dialogue.
And that moves us onto the second problem. To drive a piece such as this forward needs a strong narrative and gripping dialogue. Sadly, apart from some isolated witty turn of phrase, Bonna’s dialogue is often mundane and fails to hold attention. The non linear nature of the piece requires a much clearer structure and punchier dialogue to make the piece work
Running at an hour and a half the piece would also benefit from some judicious editing as in its current form it seems overlong.
As mentioned this is very much a work in progress so some of these issues may already be being addressed. A worthy concept from this new company, but one that needs a bit more work before the next step on its journey.