views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The One Festival 2017 - Programme D
The Space
17th January 2017

★★★★☆

Promotional image for The One Festival 2017

Photography supplied by The Space

Given the utterly bewildered expressions of the actors randomly plucked out of the audience to participate, there were two things immediately apparent from the opening monologue in Programme D. Firstly, The One Festival can still surprise even those in the business and secondly, you really can't go to a new writing festival these days without a truck load of Pen Fedders showing up. The beauty of new writing is that absolutely anything can happen, with Programme D decidedly different.

The Terrible Tale of Dr F is by the far the most interactive monologue in the festival this year and vies for most surreal, although it's not without serious competition on that front. Written by Neil Sinclair and Lucy Hopkins, it's the story of how one scientist, Dr F (Sinclair), has accidentally caused the collapse of society and is doing his best not to get lynched as a result. Set in the not-too-distant future, it's hard to tell whether it's his manmade viruses or references to future political leaders that are more terrifying. Physical comedy and well-timed pauses drive a lot of the humour in the first part of this longer monologue, which develops into an increasingly witty and acerbic account of a post-apocalyptic world, with the odd bit of faux-science thrown in. The nature of the monologue makes the pacing a challenging task, but directors Sam Baily and Hopkins get it right. Sinclair adapts with speed and ease to the audience, adding to the already strong credibility of his protagonist. Colourful, crazy and strangely entertaining, it's all certainly memorable.

Posh, Becks and Me, written by and performed by Milo Mint, is a wickedly funny account of his life as someone who just happens to know all of the celebrities. His calm, measured delivery contrasts completely with Sinclair's madcap energy and yet if anything, attracts more laughs. His deliberately rigid performance almost suggests his character has been botoxed within an inch of life, much like most of the people he describes to us. It's quite impressive that Mint doesn't corpse once, keeping up the cool facade until the very end. Coupling such a deliberately implausible narrative with such a matter of fact style of storytelling leads to sidesplitting hilarity. Timing is everything here, with director Jodie Botha instinctively knowing exactly where to make Mint pause for maximum laughs. Posh, Beck and Me is undeniably one of the strongest monologues in The One Festival, despite being one of the least complicated. It's just executed superbly.

As with There's No Place Like, Jericho's Rose is a piece written by and starring Lilac Yosiphon that intends to discuss identity and has some good ideas at its core. However yet again her work doesn't quite hit the mark. The frustration of the character's grandfather at losing his memories and his sense of self is palpable and explained well, but the use of pre-recorded audio, repetition and clockwork-like movement between scenes curiously serves to interrupt the emotion rather than draw it out. Sam Elwin's accompaniment is simple and effective, with Yosiphon ably belting out Freres Jacques. Whilst director Michael Cole does manage to show us the sheer cruelty of Alzheimers and the inherent sadness of Yosiphon's character, Jericho's Rose doesn't flow the way as effortlessly as it should do, not quite landing.

Emotion is brought out more clearly in Scott Mullen's Flask, a very short monologue about alcoholism, inevitability and family. Annabel Smith gives an unflinchingly raw performance as Peyton, a woman whose father's death marks her descent into darkness. We feel the impact on her life as well as her brother's, responding to her obvious distress. Although Bollocks! also touches on grief, it is more an exploration of identity than it is an unhappy piece. Danny (Paul Thomas) revisits the past in a rambling, drunken conversation with a friend who isn't there anymore, finally making good on an old promise. Thomas bounds about the stage, pausing every so often as a memory catches up with his character and his eyes threaten to mist over. As you would expect from Mike Carter, the dialogue is well written and very natural. Director Saffron Myers captures both the comedy and the tragedy of Carter's script.

From the end of one person's world to the actual apocalypse, Programme D is full of endings. However, with such promise from a varied group of cast and creatives, we would hope there's nothing final about their work and that we see more from them in 2017.

The One Festival ran from 10th to 29th January. Programme D ran from 13th to 28th January 2017.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)



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