Review: 15 Minutes Live ****

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Sunny Bank Mills

As with most of the work created by Leeds-based Slung Low theatre company, it is only in the experience of the show that you really understand it.

Beforehand, the idea of the top floor of a mill on a Sunday afternoon in November, with six plays being read live to be recorded and turned into CDs for old people’s homes is not perhaps the ideal place to spend one’s time.

During and after the show you feel absolutely, as the master of ceremonies and director Alan Lane said, “this is how I want to spend every Sunday afternoon”.

Six Leeds writers had 15 minutes each to tell a story rooted in the city. That each of the short plays felt far longer than just 15 minutes is (in almost every case) a huge compliment. This sense of time taking on a mallable quality began with the opening piece by Alice Nutter.

She created an enormous story that stretched across time and space; it is a signal of what a master of her craft the writer has become.

Ben Tagoe, the author of Vegan Wedding, displayed a lighter touch, with his comic tale bringing less pathos to proceedings, but providing plenty of entertainment, as did Aisha Khan’s slight story of a boy in love with – and terrified to confess his feelings to – a girl. Both Khan and Tagoe’s pieces brought levity to an afternoon that was already teeming with bonhomie. Co-produced between Slung Low and I Love West Leeds Festival, the one off brought a whole cast of actors together with foley artists creating sounds live while the pieces were recorded. All the performances were on song and the writing, on the whole, was stunning. This was real event theatre.

Emma Adams’ typically ambitious story, Angels and Aliens, about a Polish boy making contact with what he thought was an alien (and was actually a grumpy old Leeds resident on the other end of a tin can dangled out of the boy’s window on a piece of string) was achingly beautiful. Poignant and funny, it was a joy.

Boff Whalley’s closing piece, Barbara Taylor Bradford meets Alan Bennett on a Bench in Armley was the perfect way to round off an afternoon of simple storytelling. Laugh-out-loud funny with a sing-a-long featuring AB and BTB singing “I loved this place so much/I moved away”, it was smart, sharp, gentle and funny.

A perfect Sunday afternoon.

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