Lion & Unicorn Theatre
Reviewed – 19th August 2017
“a laudable endeavour but …”
Described as ‘A stark, painful and compelling story,’ Sophie is written and performed by Julia Pagett. I would agree with the description up to a point, but unfortunately it is not compelling. It is also described as a play. It is not a play, it is a fifteen minute monologue. When Pagett walked off stage someone sitting near me said, ‘is that it then,’ echoing my thoughts precisely.
The piece opens with Pagett already on stage, leafing through a shoebox full of what look like letters and postcards. She had a nice connection to the character during this preset, and that would have been a good start were it not for the fact that she kept doing exactly the same thing after the house lights went down. ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ played, and we had to sit through every verse while she looked at the stuff in the box. In all, with the song and the preset, this added up to about eight minutes and she had lost me by the end of the first verse. I find it a strange directorial decision by Keir Mills, to start with the actor on stage and then to continue the same action when the lights go down. If she had walked in to begin the piece we would, perhaps, have been more drawn in.
Unfortunately the problems did not end there. Much of Pagett’s delivery was very quiet and rushed. Sometimes I had no idea what she was saying, as she was practically falling over her words, and seemed to be pitching the volume to someone about three feet away from her. This did not work well in the back row. On the few occasions when she slowed and took a breath she was more connected and interesting.
Some of the writing is good, but at times it slips into a predictable pathos. It is definitely worth working on but the piece does not feel ready for presentation. It would have been much better placed in a new writing night among other shorts. Actor Awareness put on evenings dedicated to Mental Health and this would sit well there as a work in development.
The team are raising money for Mind, the mental health charity. This is a laudable endeavour but I would rather have either seen three fifteen minute pieces, or just donated the £5 ticket price to Mind.
Reviewed by Katre
is at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 27th August as part of the Camden Fringe Festival