Nuns and nipple-sucking

Genital sweets, tit-sucking, cross-dressing, and nun orgies – I’d expect no less from Oriel’s 24 hour play. Writing and performing a play in 24 hours is not any easy task for a group of fourteen actors, especially when you are basing your play on the day’s newspaper titles.

Because this year was the 5th anniversary, the headlines were replaced by whatever material was contained in papers delivered that day at the international psychology conference in San Francisco. For those of you who mistakenly think the play lasts 24 hours, it is the creative process which actually takes 24 hours. Beginning from scratch, we write and perform The Annals of Tathituth.

Research papers with titles such as Beyond Orgasm: Males’ Exposure to Pornography provided the basis and the inspiration. We start working on the script at 5 pm the evening before, splitting off into small groups and then sharing our findings. The suggestion of an Alice in Wonderland-style reworking of the Madeleine McCann story (complete with Portuguese tapas saying ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’) is suitably abandoned in the name of decency. Instead, within the next couple of hours, a play starts to take shape set in an alternative universe governed by Sir Alana, in which touching is forbidden, and hands must be removed if touching occurs, by a series of orgiastically-inclined nuns.

The actors and writers work alternately on writing and rehearsing the different parts of the plot. This process finishes at midnight on Friday. A 7am start fuelled by inordinate amounts of coffee, and Sainsbury’s Basics biscuits prompt the next day’s work, where rehearsals take place until the 5pm performance, which takes place on the lawns.

The end performance of The Annals of Tathituth is a surreal storyline revolving around an Apprentice-style dictatorship governed by Sir Alana. Sir Alana has forbidden touching, and the opening scene involves a nun chopping the hand off of a prisoner, Tathituth. An alternative plot involving a crazed menopausal mother and her son, who is trying to advertise his new brand of genital sweets ‘Fruity Fruity Cunty Chebs’, provides an even more surreal sub-plot. The menopausal mother spends most of the play suckling a sheep’s head to her (his) breast and swathed in bloody rags and cheap lipstick, while performing a series of inexplicable monologues about Italian prostitutes or her homosexual son.

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Along the way, a threesome involving three nuns provides another highlight. Music, a gin-drinking, Sex and the City-obsessed jailor called Betty Swallow (she swallows!), and several minor dance sequences add to the evening’s entertainment. Having to suckle John-Mark Philo’s blood-coated titty was my personal highlight, as I played the Lolita-esque lover of Tathituth. The play ends to a rather grim sing-along of Mamma Mia (I say grim because most of the cast is covered in red soap or bananas). Putting on a play in 24 hours really is challenging, but the process and the end performance is such fun.