views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The One Festival 2016 - Programme B
The Space
11th February 2016


Promotional image for LARP

Photography supplied by The Space

With The One Festival being a celebration of monologues, it's inevitable that with only one person taking centre stage at any one time, most pieces in the festival end up exploring the human condition. In Programme B, four short plays question who we are in the context of missing something. When one part of the puzzle falls away, what happens to us? What's left?

Both LARP and You Won't Believe What This Man Does Next are about two women missing a sense of purpose. In LARP, protagonist Lucy (Berri George) is swaddling herself with myths and fantasy, hiding from the big decisions in her dad and his partner's granny annex. Lucy dresses and acts younger than she is, lacking a role model to help her navigate adulthood. She invents a make-believe perfect mother, followed by a brand new family and a fantasy world. Whilst it would be so easy to dismiss her as a geeky misfit, we swiftly realise the reason why she is drifting so aimlessly is entirely down to her circumstances and can understand why role-playing appeals to her so much.

Director Adam Dattis confidently guides George through a number of characters, with Lucy's first online encounter with her new role-playing friends a particular triumph. The way that George slips between different strong regional accents is almost like watching an acting showreel, with George effortlessly showing us everything she can do. It's been several years since I last saw George on stage, and it's clear she's been honing her skills in that period. George's talent as a playwright and actor are clear, however there are several points in the final third where it feels like the story could be about to stop and this distracts. After galloping through Lucy's many rambling thoughts, the sudden and unexpected lets up in pace are confusing. Dattis' direction needs to be tightened up - whilst the characterisation is superb, he needs to ensure there's momentum throughout.

The woman (Anna Chessher) in Gabriel Jones' You Won't Believe What This Man Does Next has a similarly overactive imagination. She loses focus easily, going off at tangents and like Lucy, is very much a relatable and likeable character. Here her lack of fulfillment is presented as entertaining rather than bleak, with her severe procrastination provoking plenty of laughs. The clock ticks and she gets no closer to freeing herself from the joblessness which is strangling her, yet Jones pushes us to see the humour of the situation with an engaging plot device.

Promotional image for The One Festival 2016

Photography supplied by The Space

In Proper Mental and A Living Record, the leads have both lost a loved one and are trying to find some sort of coping strategy. The mother (Dilek Latif) in Mike Carter's Proper Mental is facing an unnatural scenario - outliving her son. Although life has changed irrevocably, she has not: she's still a keen football supporter who loves her little man and her team. Watching the footie brings her joy, and there's something quite poignant in her refusal to stop being happy. She acknowledges her sorrow, it is overwhelmingly painful, yet she's holding on tightly to the good as well as the bad.

The mother's emotions are brought out in an achingly beautiful way by director Jo Greaves. We warm to Latif's character immediately and we hurt with her as she speaks to her son knowing only one of them has any kind of future. However, Latif's gaze constantly moves, taking away the possibility that she's talking directly to her child and putting her in a empty room, simply taking a moment. If we could believe she was in hospital, addressing a bed-bound child, it would be more powerful. It's one small distraction in an otherwise perfectly executed vignette.

Nic McQuillan is the only person to deliver a truly one-man-show, writing, performing and directing A Living Record on his own. Despite its brevity, it's one of the more memorable monologues in the festival, with his character's sadness lingering long after the final curtain. McQuillan performs without shoes, a costume choice which makes his character seem more vulnerable. He makes wonderful use of silence, grinning at the audience and pausing, deliberately creating gaps which could end up being uncomfortable, but knowing when to resume his dialogue. There's a great balance here, made all the more laudable by the lack of separate director to assist.

Each programme in the festival has something different to offer, but Programme B stands out as a thought-provoking and polished assortment of new writing.

The One Festival opened on 10th February and runs until 21st February. Programme B opened on 11th February, ran on 14th February and next runs on 19th February 2016.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)

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