@ Sloan’s Bar and Restaurant, Glasgow, until Fri 3 Jun 2016
(part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s On The Verge Festival)

An eight strong ensemble are in a race against time to perform. The audience control the run, calling out plays to order from a selection curated by the self-identified Neo-Futurists. The resulting 20 Plays in 40 Minutes is a thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly insightful series of plays that more often than not hits the target.

20 Plays in 40 Minutes is hugely indebted to the Chicago-based Neo-Futurists’ twenty-seven-year running Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes. Since their debut, off-shoot troupes have emerged and sustained their own versions of the work in New York and San Francisco. What links Neo-Futurists from Chicago to those stood before us in Glasgow is a desire to perform with “absolute honesty” – with no characters, made up realities or extravagant settings – and present a continuation of daily life on the stage.

The plays presented tonight are particularly strong when they engage with the audience’s lives directly and with immediacy, forming arguments rather than sketches. Keep Your Eyes on the Road, a retelling of an unwanted sexual advance from a taxi driver, and 40 Cents of Every Dollar Spent, a vitriol against the USA’s policies on gun control, raise provocative and relevant arguments. Stalemate, a monologue about the deeply felt inertia, fear and crisis brought on by Donald Trump’s possible presidency, is particularly striking, conveying the desperation, confusion and quiet hopelessness that stems from a contemporary inability to engage in productive political dialogue.

Out of the twenty available plays, some inevitably don’t connect with their audience. The sketches are often funny – The Duck Knight caused this audience member to cry with laughter and nearly vacate his chair into a quivering wreck on the floor – yet by their own standards such sketches are arguably not “Neo-Futurist plays.” What connects and what doesn’t connect will vary from audience member to audience member, yet the weaker sketches here are those that don’t progress or articulate anything more than their title.

What is really most exciting about 20 Plays in 40 Minutes is the work this troupe might perform in the future. This review is from the first night of their two-night run at On the Verge, and at present the work is understandably a little rough. Given time and space, and possibly a thirty night run at the Edinburgh Festival, this ensemble clearly has the talent and potential to push and develop this work much further.