Threadneedle House, Ideas Hub, upstairs on Exchange Square [now Carluccio's loos] – Danny Segeth loves seeking out new and unusual performance spaces.
So here we are at A-Canteen, a vibrant bar-restaurant over the river from M&S, in the 21st century equivalent of the back room of the boozer. An ambient background of Friday night partying, occasional shadows passing over the frosted glass.
And, appropriately, the four short pieces on the menu all involve conversations over food and drink.
The last – winner of an open competition – is Duck Eggs, a grubby Ayckbournish comedy with a neat twist at the end. Strong characters from host couple Dav [Alex Phillips] and V [Esme Hollier], with the ill-at-ease, bickering visitors played by Stephanie Yorke-Edwards and Joe Kennedy – the latter a lovely study in uncomfortable outrage. Written by Luke Stapleton, and directed by Segeth himself.
A clever twist, too, in Ian Willingham's Intelligent Love. Directed by the playwright, it's set in a not-too-distant future of clones and robots. Engagingly performed by Ruth Westbrook, giggly and drunk, having a brief encounter with unique, freaky Jake [Ben Fraser in a witty R2D2 teeshirt, his AI-enhanced brain regurgitating the history of the Roman Empire].
Technology is at the heart of Georgina Whittaker's Swipe Right, directed by Tom Tull. Nick [Mikey McDonagh], is celebrating his birthday with Lee [David Corder, glued to his smartphone, distraught as the signal goes and his battery dips below 52%] and Cat [Jade Flack, aggressively eating Doritos]. But a Tinder match [Natalie Paluzzo] rides to the rescue with her Spiderman tattoo and a delicious birthday cake … “mostly” fruit.
Naomi Page's Choices, directed by Richard Dawes, is a much subtler, more profound piece. A middle-aged couple try to enjoy an evening out. But the meal, like their marriage, is haunted by their lost son, hit-and-run killer Pete [Mikey McDonagh]. Beautifully played by Dave Hawkes and Andrea Dalton, who inhabit their roles perfectly, making the most of the writing, which is at its best in the less articulate moments, full of pauses and unfinished thoughts.
Wherever Mad Apple go next, it's worth following them in their search for innovative theatre in unusual spaces.