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24 Hours to Make It Or Break It

24 hour Theatre Festival causes whirlwind of excitement and sets the bar extremely high for this year’s Queen Mary Theatre Company

“There’s only one cowboy in this town, Boy”. A girl with an eyeliner beard drawls this line, sauntering towards another dragged up cowgirl/boy/person, across the stage of Queen Mary’s Pinter theatre. Queen Mary Theatre Company’s 24-Hour Theatre Festival is well under way, and we’re currently watching ‘Don’t Be a Dick’, an aptly named cautionary/western tale.

Exactly 24 hours prior to this moment, around forty five members were gathered in the theatre and given two ‘key themes’ (such as Western/Romance or Sci-Fi/Comedy), a glittery costume mask and a rubber replica of a bloody severed hand. With little other explanation or guidelines, the committee told each team of actors to create a 10-15 minute piece combining all of these elements. What ensued was beyond expectation…

QMTC had long been keen to launch a 24-hour festival. The premise is simple: all actors are split into groups of around five, and are given exactly 24 hours to create, rehearse, direct, stage, and perform a short piece with just a few stimulus items and phrases. The response to the launch of the festival was better than the Theatre Company’s committee could have hoped for. In the end, there were seven fantastic 15 minute pieces of theatre, presented on the 4th of October to a packed out Pinter Theatre. Launched just after Freshers’ madness was over, the company’s brand spanking new members were champing at the bit to sign up and show their peers exactly what they were made of. And boy, were they made of some weird stuff. Over the course of two hours of performances we witnessed a time travelling duo’s search for the right hand of Napoleon, a magical retelling of all of western literature’s classic novels (including a Harry Potter without Harry Potter), the immersive initiation ceremony of an unsettling cult and a silent film version of a bar-room murder in the Wild West.

What made this festival special for QMTC members was the unabashed and unfettered enthusiasm of all involved. With no audition process, no director in charge, and no long and arduous rehearsal process, what emerged were the wonderfully mad outpourings of a group of sleep deprived student brains. There was very little censoring, and very little worrying about image or reputation – just fun. It was a joy to see old and new members alike mingling in their silliness and creativity. All of the productions performed on that Saturday night were tiny tours-de-force in their own right and totally incomparable to each other, as well as incomparable to anything that QMTC had attempted before. Ambitious? Oh yes. Successful? Undoubtedly.

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