Fast & Loose 5 with QU Players and Accidental Theatre

On Friday and Saturday, I took the opportunity to join up with the precocious talents in Queen's University Players and Accidental Theatre again to be part of Fast and Loose 5, their latest 24 hour play venture. Unlike last time, I decided to be a director, given that I would like to be able to move into that area at some stage, and this was a great opportunity to see if I could take the reigns on someone else's script.

I was handed Darragh Cotter's Last Choir Practice, a bittersweet tale of innocence lost between two schoolgirls, played perfectly by Christina Martin and Karen Quinn. It was nerve-shredding taking over someone's writing, but Darragh said he was pleased with how we approached it, and I hope I did it justice. It was great working with two fine young actresses, who approached the rehearsals and line learning with impeccable professionalism and were simply great natural performers, which took the pressure off me immediately.

The second play of the evening (Pirate Radio) was by Fast and Loose veterans, Leana Arrell, Brian Charity and Neal Cahoun, and they maintained their mischievous ways with a dark comedy about two cousins (David Heatley and Amy Poole) having to face the possibility that they will have to repopulate the planet. The performances and direction by Claire Mason were spot on, and the audience was in stitches. These writers are not afraid to broach taboos, and I said to them I would love to perform something they write, and hope to get a chance to sometime soon.

The third play, Danced Myself Into the Tomb, was a tragic exploration into the fragile state of the human mind, centred on a gut-wrenching performance from Josh Cuddy. Unfortunately the writer, James Pelan, was unable to see Jordana Maguire's expressive take on his piece, but I'm sure he would have approved.

Minerva by Seamus Collins finished the evening on a rapturous high. Seamus, fresh from winning a BBC Writersroom competition to be a writer for the Lyric Theatre, and premieres for his two plays, And of the Sun and Please, Patricia, is on something of a role at the minute, and long may it continue. His play was about two daughters coming to terms with their gregarious mother's philandering ways. A tour de force performance from Nuala Donnelly as the mother, along with Catherine Lambert and Ruth Wilson brilliantly playing the daughters, is a testament to director Colm Doran and the actresses themselves.

The production team, and overall outlay was considerably smaller for Fast and Loose 5, but the mercurial Emily de Dakis and Justyn MacKay still managed to put on a great show. Along with the lone stage manager, Simon Welch - who also provided some voiceovers for the plays - and writing mentor, Phil Hurst - who is also a writer on a role, having got through the first round of BBC NI's PrimeTime competition - assisting the writers overnight. Of course I and the other directors owe a huge debt to the men behind the tech desk, John Beecher and David Kane, who had to overcome missing equipment and theatre lock outs to get the tech runs and performances done. Hat tips all round.

The idea of doing a play in 24 hours really is frightening, but the energy is invigorating, and it's inspired me to attempt directing again soon.