views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The One Festival 2017 - Programme C
The Space
15th January 2017

★★★☆☆

Promotional image for The One Festival 2017

Photography supplied by The Space

It's easy for a big, mad adventure to capture the imagination of an audience, but sometimes good storytelling is about what the protagonist didn't actually do. Never mind the road less travelled, the monologues in Programme C follow the road completely bypassed, exploring the lasting impact of not doing something. It's about a moment of clarity, where our protagonists realise - often too late - what is the very real and sobering cost of inaction.

Rabiah Hussain and Rachael Claye both write short tales of regret, although Hussain's Desirable is rather more poetic and elegant with a measured rhythm and plenty of meaningful glances as opposed to the humorous dressing gown and crisp sandwich in She Said I Do. Yet the remorse is just as heavy in both pieces. Both protagonists, played by Hussain and Damian Cooper, have failed to fight for a loved one and that lack of effort haunts them even now. Hussain's character isn't seeking forgiveness or understanding, merely recounting what happened. Director Isabel Dixon presents Cooper to us as a despondent man who has given up, shuffling around the stage and pondering what he's let go without looking too deeply. Perhaps he would seek forgiveness if he really understood what had caused his circumstances, but he doesn't strike us as ready or willing to look.

As you would expect from the One Festival, the sombre mood of the programme is broken up with a bit of light relief, and this comes in the form of Dawn, written by Rachel McGill. Dawn (Millie Binks) isn't painted in a particularly flattering way, making her on-stage entrance unenthusiastically having sex with her "uncle" Jim. Blonde, uneducated and unambitious, Dawn is seemingly comfortable with being treated as an object. However, she reveals hopes and desires that aren't necessarily what people expect of her and demonstrates a natural warmth and overwhelming compassion that command our admiration. Quickly we realise she is a product of her circumstances and that's why she makes such an easy connection to the little boy next door, almost wanting to scoop him up and rescue him. Whilst there's plenty of very welcome comedy to this monologue, it's not without its hidden depths either.

Joni-Rae Carrack and Calum Anderson have penned Do You Mind? together, a story about Carrack's struggles with mental illness and her experiences with online dating. There's a spoiler as to whether Carrack ever found a happy ending in that she is getting hitched to co-writer and director Anderson, but that doesn't make her story any less interesting. The first part is relatable and engaging as she explains her adventures with a certain question-based dating site, reciting sections from her old profile and sharing something very personal with us. It's obvious that this is an autobiographical tale with very little artistic editing and the sheer bravery is breathtaking. Carrack is willing to give herself to her art fully.

However, as Carrack starts to explain the specifics of her condition and jump back and forth through her life, her narrative starts to ramble and becomes overly repetitive. What begins as a clear stylistic device becomes rapidly overused and dull. As a performer, she's inherently likeable and does have a story worth telling, but there's just not enough variety in her tone to sustain a long 55 minutes. Carrack's use of puppetry is endearing and creative, but there doesn't seem to be much thought given by Anderson as to how many of the audience are actually able to see her craft and how much is reserved for the lucky front row. It's understandable why Carrack felt the need to act her story herself, however both she and Anderson seem too close to the subject to give the play the edits that it needs.

Most of the stories are fleeting; one is far too long in its current format. Although the programme doesn't feel properly balanced as a result, we enjoy meeting the different protagonists and joining them in their insightful musings. Programme C is thought-provoking and varied.

The One Festival opened on 10th January and runs until 29th January. Programme C opened on 12th January, ran on 15th, 21st and 25th January and next runs on 28th January 2017.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)



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