Review: monolog

4 star rating
Monologues from Alan Bennett and Diane Samuels, plus a handful of newly written pieces, prove the worth of both the form and the considerable skill of the Chickenshed creative team.
monolog at Chickenshed

Image: Chickenshed



Closes here: Saturday 3 March 2018

Author:

Her Big Chance - Alan Bennett

This is Me - Diane Samuels

I found Love in a Bin (in Waterloo Station) - Peter Dowse

Last Piece of the Sun - Alesha Bhakoo, Dave Carey & Milly Rolle

Sands of Time - Wendy Sharer

The Creature in the Dark - Barbara Bakhurst

The Dinner With My Dead Dad - Natasha Zacher

Walls Like Paper - Rachel Yates


Director:

Her Big Chance & This is Me - Lou Stein

I found Love in a Bin - Tiia Mäkinen

Last Piece of the Sun - Alesha Bhakoo, Dave Carey & Milly Rolle

Sands of Time - Matthew Lyons

The Creature in the Dark - Rachel Yates

The Dinner With My Dead Dad - Anthony Nyagah

Walls Like Paper - Ashley Driver


Cast:

Her Big Chance

Lesley - Belinda McGuirk


This is Me

Older Diane - Belinda McGuirk

Younger Diane - Lucy-Mae Beacock


I found Love in a Bin (in Waterloo Station)

Sarah Connolly


Last Piece of the Sun

Creative team: Alesha Bhakoo, Dave Carey & Milly Rolle


Sands of Time

Chris Perifimou


The Creature in the Dark

Cerys Lambert


The Dinner With My Dead Dad

Jessica Barron


Walls Like Paper

Ingrid Cannon


Synopsis


Chickenshed presents two moving and dramatic solo plays which together combine to deliver a hugely powerful and emotional theatrical experience.


Alan Bennett's Her Big Chance is a dramatic monologue conceived as part of his Talking Heads series for television, originally broadcast in 1988.


Talking Heads has also enjoyed success on the stage, and on the radio.


Her Big Chance tells the funny story of Lesley, an aspiring actress who is offered what she believes to be her big break as the adventurous Travis in a new film for the West German market.


Hearing her story, we start to glimpse her naivety, and realise that this isn't perhaps the shortcut to the big time she expected it to be!


Also presented is This is Me by Diane Samuels (writer of Kindertransport, performed as a sold-out run at Chickenshed back in 2016).


A newly commissioned autobiographical dramatic piece where Ms Samuels explores the form of the monolog by inviting the audience to be a part of her story.


Audiences who enjoyed Chickenshed's production of Kindertransport, will enjoy entering a young child's probing mind and engaging mind.


Plus new monologues from new writers (two of six new pieces are included at each performance).


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Tuesday 13 February 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

The everyday ordinary, the exotically unusual, the unsaid, the unsung and a whole lot more can pop up in an art form which is as appealing, moving and rewarding as it ever was.


That art form is the monologue.


The really neat thing about one person telling us a story is that we, the audience, can easily focus on the single actor and become totally absorbed by what they are saying and doing.


Of course, it's not so easy for the actor who has no-one to support them but the writer's words (and, almost certainly, a lot of hard work from their director).


But it does permit actors to shine in a way that is not always so easy to achieve in ensemble work, and that opportunity can impact on the audience's appreciation and enjoyment of the piece as is most definitely the case here with this clutch of monologues from Chickenshed.


Artistic director, Lou Stein, adopts an intriguing and novel structure for this compelling evening of solo performances, in which the work of the most famous writers comes first, with the finale suitably reserved for some new writing from members of the Chickenshed community.


The evening kicks-off with Alan Bennett's Her Big Chance - one of the playwright's offerings from the series entitled Talking Heads, first broadcast on BBC TV back in 1988, with Julie Walters starring as Lesley.


In this version directed by Mr Stein, Lesley is played by Belinda McGuirk.


The essential idea of the story is that Lesley is an actor who regards herself as a 'serious' person and is looking for the same in the roles she's offered.


However, she's landed a role in a dubious film venture which finds her, more often than not, without certain items of her clothing during shooting and in the hotel bedrooms of the crew in the evenings.


There are fewer obvious laughs from Mr Bennett than in some of his other work in this genre, and it's a rather sad story, effectively bolstered here by an unassuming and understated performance from Belinda McGuirk.


In Diane Samuels' This is Me we find the monologue format developed in two ways.


First, the roles for the character, Diane (the author), is alternated on different nights by a younger version - Lucy-Mae Beacock - and an older version played by Belinda McGuirk.


And, in another innovation, the audience assists in developing the story by holding-up pieces of cloth on which are written cues as to the topics we want to hear about next.


That means the story is told differently at each performance.


On my visit, the bubbly Ms Beacock was the energetic and capable young actor in the spotlight, telling us with surprising frankness of some of the events along the life-line of the playwright, Diane Samuels.


After the interval, Ingrid Cannon, in a play called Walls Like Paper, adeptly gave us a glimpse inside a housing estate where Enid seems to have lost her will to fight until she sees something from her balcony that stirs her to action.


And in Barbara Bakhurst's The Creature in the Dark, we find Cerys Lambert's young mum struggling to cope with the mixture of emotions after the recent arrival of her baby.


Rounding-off a highly watchable evening's programme of well-written, well-acted and tightly-directed plays, Cerys Lambert's effortlessly natural and affecting performance perfectly demonstrates the power of monologues.


An everyday and commonplace event though it may be in the general scheme of things, the birth of a child brings with it extraordinary challenges for new parents and Barbara Bakhurst's play perfectly captures that juxtaposition.


And this well-rounded, thoughtful programme not only reveals that the art of the single voice is still alive and kicking, it clearly shows the considerable skills among the Chickenshed fraternity.



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