Reviewed – 19th February 2019
“Thought-provoking and eclectic, there is something for everyone to enjoy”
After last year’s success of Monolog, a night dedicated to the singular voice, the Chickenshed have brought the event back, fine-tuning the concept and selecting pieces that create more of an impact. A range of ages, genders, ethnicities and themes are represented, creating a multicultural melting pot of voices that exhibits the theatre’s powerful ethos of inclusivity.
Where the original Monolog performance saw new writing mixed in with established pieces by the likes of Alan Bennett, Monolog 2 focuses entirely on fresh material, written by a cross-section of the theatre’s community. Seven monologues are presented over two halves, each lasting around 20 minutes, giving enough time for the writing to take you on a journey. Shifting between stories of family struggles to political protests, new life, to life put on halt, identity crisis to acceptance of self, each tell a distinctive tale.
The individual pieces manage to be engaging to some extent, bringing a different style and energy to the space. Some are more poetic, whilst others rely on technology and voiceovers to add another dimension. There are certainly some that stand out over others: The originality of Hannah Smith’s Even, Odd…Odd, Even has a dystopian feel akin to the likes of Black Mirror, whilst Milly Rolle’s eccentric depiction of a twenty-somethings shock discovery of being pregnant is highly entertaining and moving. However, it is Alesha Bhakoo’s self-penned and performed piece, Stranger, that seems to be the most captivating. The personal connection to the material about one woman’s internal struggle between her British and Indian identities is apparent, and consequently achieves a harder-hitting and more genuine presentation.
This year, the performance takes place in the theatre’s newest space, The Shed, which is quite literally a glorified shed, fitting around 20-30 audience members. This is certainly an intimate affair, but it works perfectly for the confessional nature of the monologues. A larger space would not be appropriate. The unavoidable clunky transitions between one piece to the next is done as efficiently as possible. As there is a relaxed air to the whole show, the stop/start, choppy changeovers do not detract. It actually gives the audience a moment of pause to reflect.
As Artistic Director, Lou Stein, mentions in his notes about the show, “new work, devising and writing is the life-blood of our theatre’s voice in an ever-changing world”. For a theatre to survive it needs originality and the gumption to create fresh work that challenges our perceptions of the world. Monolog 2 makes a fine attempt at doing this. Thought-provoking and eclectic, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Reviewed by Phoebe Coles
Photography by Daniel Beacock
Chickenshed Theatre until 2nd March
Previously reviewed at this venue: