Reviewed – 8th February 2018
“McGuirk gives a delightful performance, drawing the audience in with her bold and bubbly characterisation”
Single narrative performances are a theatrical style whose popularity has fluctuated over the years, even though it has maintained an underground following. However, recently, there does seem to be a resurgence of theatres within the capital that are allocating more space within their programme to showcase this art form. Whether it is in the shape of a poetry slam, a spoken word night, or a solo performance event, the singular voice is taking centre stage once more. North London’s Chickenshed Theatre is one such place that has jumped on the bandwagon. Their new production, Monolog, is a celebration of the lone voice, and the vast, diverse approaches in which it can be heard.
In an intimate and relaxed setting, four, non-linking monologues that include new writing as well as the work of established writers are given exposure, delivered with vitality and enthusiasm. Opening with Her Big Chance by Alan Bennett, Belinda McGuirk presents the piece from what is probably the most recognisable collection of dramatic monologues, Talking Heads. Julie Walters had originally played the part of starry-eyed actress, Lesley, for the small screen, but here, McGuirk gives a delightful performance, drawing the audience in with her bold and bubbly characterisation. The monologue does seem dated now, with its references and the character’s moral naivety, though still topical in light of the recent uncoverings of sexual abuse and harassment cases within the film industry.
A newly commissioned autobiographical piece, This Is Me, by Diane Samuels (best known for her play Kindertransport) is the second offering. The performance is a snapshot of memories of her life with alternating performances by either Belinda McGuirk as the older Diane, or Lucy Mae Beacock as the younger, depending on which performance you see. I saw the younger self, sweetly portrayed by Beacock using an unconventional method of audience participation to reveal the next vignette of her early life, gradually building the bigger picture of who she is. Beacock gives a confident and assured performance as the young Diane, but the content is rather underwhelming.
The most thrilling contributions to the show are the two monologues from the ‘New Writing’ selection, which have a fresh and vibrant voice. A total of six have been written by various affiliates of the Chickenshed community, rotating between which are presented. Last Piece of the Sun, collaboratively devised by Alesha Bhakoo, Dave Carey and Milly Rolle, follows the heart-breaking consequences of a one-night stand, which Bhakoo performs with real believability. Whilst, the kooky, I Find Love In A Bin (In Waterloo Station) by Peter Dowse, is wonderfully brought to life by Sarah Connelly, who imaginatively uses the abstract imagery to her advantage.
This showcase of work is a pleasant reminder of how important the monologue is to the arts, and the power in which in can behold in telling a narrative. Moving through varying emotions and periods of time Monolog demonstrates how far the form has come along, whilst contemplating how much wider its parameters could be pushed in the future.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Daniel Beacock
Chickenshed Theatre until 3rd March