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Slush Pile | Etcetera Theatre

Written and directed by L. T. Hewitt, Slush Pile brings the complications of the publishing

world to the London stage and the struggles up-and-coming writers face. Jack, Iris, and Kai

(Aaron Devine, Pauline Marion, and Nicky Vatvani respectively), the three newly appointed interns at the Piccadilly Press who have been tasked with the thankless job of sorting through thousands of unsolicited submissions, only for one to potentially make the cut and be published.

The play opens with the interns being shown to their desks and quickly explaining the

premise of a slush pile before cracking on. We begin to see the meaning behind the piece as

Iris and Kai clash about what makes a good novel (and aged classic or modern relatability)

and which writers the publishers should be supporting. Regardless of which side you are on,

you can feel the passion behind each argument and this snappy opening promises a fast-

paced performance that will fully utilise its hour in front of an audience. However, it struggles

to reach the heights foretold and ends up stumbling over itself as it tries to find the best way

to get the themes across.

Immediately after this scene, we switch to BAFTA-winning (amongst other awards) actor

Virgil Riga auditioning for a role, but growing frustrated at the lack of heart behind the words

he is resisting. After teasing some interesting, current concerns for actors, we jump back to

the Piccadilly Press where Virgil is eventually introduced as secondary to everything else

going on.

The show makes it clear that publishers are not doing enough to support new writers as

profit is the main goal. This is an issue that can unfortunately be moulded to fit all art forms.

It appears that the priority was to ensure the audience knew these problems existed, instead

of creating discussions about them as the majority of the dialogue involved repeating the

same lines about the pros and cons of not giving new writers opportunities. Some stakes

developed when Jack was prepared to let his novel be published in Virgil’s name, taking no

credit for his work and showing the emotional sacrifices a writer is willing to make, but within

a few minutes, the secret was out and the play concluded without any clarity.

Instead, something that was mentioned in one line within the first five minutes of the play became Hewitt’s final preach in this show - AI. The growing use of AI in the arts is unsettling so it should be addressed, but it felt like it was forced into this performance. Instead of watching the ending of a play about emerging writers, it felt like we were watching the beginning of another, this one about AI.

The show is promoted as a “new comedy” but focuses too much on the themes to find its

comedic tone. To their credit, Hewitt dishes up some decent quips that had everyone amused, such as criticising the modern relatability of Charles Dickens by poking fun at someone who has committed tax evasion, sarcastically stating that they will be visited by three ghosts. In the right place, the humour adds a new level of engagement but the lack of

consistency equally adds a level of confusion.

Although Slush Pile comes across as more of a staged lecture than a play, you cannot find

fault with Hewitt taking a risk and creating art about the struggles of artists. The more we tell these stories, the more we can make a difference. The show was kept alive by some strong performances, notably from Aaron Devine and Ariana Shaw who took their opportunities to carry the story and act with a sense of freedom. Unfortunately for the

rest, their dialogue was more about getting points across instead of progressing into a

structured play.

Slush Pile is running until the 13th of March at the Etcetera Theatre. For more information and tickets, you can follow this link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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