Saturday, February 13, 2021

MONOLOG 4: GROUP A (Chickenshed Theatre)***


By Dave


Available until: Unknown

Monolog 4 is the fourth year in which Chickenshed Theatre has produced a series of monologues. Usually, this takes place in a theatre. Monologue 4 also takes place in a theatre but I am assuming there is no audience. But while theatres are restricted in what they can do, many people have more time on their hands to write and more monologues were submitted for Monologue 4 than in previous years.

Eight monologues were eventually chosen – four in Group A and four in Group B - but one of those planned for Group A, Just Imagine, is not currently available to view. Chickenshed hope to make it available in the future but for now we still have three new monologues to enjoy.

In Gin Sisters, Yvonne is preparing for her daughter Emily’s wedding. She’s not looking forward to seeing her horrible ex-husband Daniel with his twenty-two year old Swedish girlfriend. But weddings are a time when family gets together and that means secrets are going to come out. Cathy Jansen-Ridings’ monologue is comprised of phone conversations between Yvonne and the various people in her life and Yvonne’s thoughts, spoken aloud. Performer Belinda McGuirk finds both the humour and the humanity in Yvonne’s painful situation. Director Arden Ridings sets the play up in Yvonne’s living room with chairs, tables, a phone and space to move around in, with Yvonne’s placing on the stage area determined by whether she needs the comfort of a chair or the space to emote. Gin Sisters doesn’t really cover any original ground but it feels very real and we’re in the interesting position of only really knowing Yvonne’s side of the story.

In Neighbourhood Watch, a guy comes home from his run and talks about the people he encounters in his life, including a fairly new neighbour. Writers Matthew Patenall and Gill Patenall have created a really interesting monologue that looks at the dangers of making judgements and questions whether doing the ‘right’ thing is always the ‘best’ thing. Director Alexandre Murtinheira starts off by focusing on the comic side of the character. Then when things get serious in the second half, there’s a subtle but powerful switch in mood. Performer Adam Cross does make his character seem like a total idiot but he might just surprise you and win himself some sympathy at the end. It’s clever because we find ourselves caught up in the dilemma along with the character. It’s difficult not to watch this without thinking about what you would do – and realising it’s not at all easy.

In The State of the Artist, amateur artist Owen wins a local competition. It just so happens a renowned art critic is visiting the town and he loves Owen’s painting. Suddenly, the entire online world is weighing in with their interpretations of the painting, making assumptions about his thoughts, his reasoning and even his life. This monologue a very interesting (and in the circumstances slightly ironic) observation on what it’s like when your work becomes public property and everyone has their own opinions on it. It really makes you realise what a big step it is effectively to hand something you’ve created over to someone else. Firstly to director Sabina Bissett, who has her own ideas about what it means and what she wants to show (one interesting decision she made was to put the painting on display on the set, inviting us to make judgements just like everyone in the monologue does). Then performer Daryl Bullock, operating within Sabina’s vision, created his own version of Owen. Only writer Sebastian Ross can say how close the performance comes to his idea but whether it was his intention or not, the play really makes us think about the situation Owen is in and examine our own beliefs.

Part A of Monolog 4 has three very different but very interesting monologues which really challenge us to stop sitting back and enjoying the show and start examining what we believe about the characters and the situations they’re in.

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