There’s a restless energy to the seven monologues chosen to be performed across two different shows in Monolog 2.
They were selected from open submissions but were read blind to the name or gender of the writer. Yet what emerged comes from six female and two male writers. They are also mostly performed and directed by women, something still rare outside of fringe theatre.
The most explicitly political of the pieces, Face the Stranger, comes from Matthew Petenall and is delivered in a style that is conversational and engaging by Alex Martinheira as a young man heading with his friend to the huge London march against the Trump visit to Britain.
His placard reads “Save the Planet. Dump Trump” and he is struck by the unusual variety of placards carried by others.
In the bustle, he loses his friend and is surprised when some sort of fight with Trump supporters breaks out in the West End. He just can’t believe anyone in Britain supports Trump!
A more intrusive world is depicted in Hannah Smith’s Even, Odd..Odd, Even. It’s a place where everybody is expected to display a number indicating how positive they feel from 1 to the most positive of 100.
She quickly finds that a number below 60 means she will get no dates, no promotion and no employment offers. However, when she wears the label of 100, she overhears someone commenting, “she’s getting a bit above herself.”
Under social pressure, she settles for an 85 but it doesn’t reflect her feelings and a personal crises is triggered by a man stepping in front of her wearing a one and saying, “I need to know you see me.”
Several of the monologues deal with issues of identity. Alesha Bhakoo in a piece she wrote plays a woman reflecting on the awkwardness she has felt about the ways her behaviour doesn’t always fit with the culture of family and the wider community. She says she is “one big walking paradox... a Paki... a contradiction.”
The short, lyrical piece Mirror Me by Belinda and Wendy Sharer, partially told in dance by Celie Johns Main, describes a recovery from a near-fatal illness and the dream of becoming a dancer.
The woman in Exploding Anger, written and performed by Milly Rolle, angrily takes a pregnancy test in the toilet of a service station and recalls meeting the man who may have caused the pregnancy. Having a child is just not part of her plan.
The innocent fourteen-year-old girl in The Hostel Angel by Barbara Bakhurst talks about missing her mother and her life with her stepfather who looks after her. One day, when she finds a man lying outside her room, she asks him who he is. He exclaims “Jesus”, so she makes him a cup of tea and later tells her stepdad she is more hopeful that her mum will return because she has met Jesus.
In contrast, the white collar prisoner in We Are All In It Together by Peter Hastings seems to have a very realistic view of his circumstances in prison from the way guards can walk into your cell and look around as if you don’t exist to the lack of hot water in the shower.
Critical of the prison system, he points out that 60% of prisoners reoffend within two years of release.
Among the factors that might contribute to this is the difficulty of maintaining family contacts. His wife has missed a visit and he ominously waits for the cell to be locked so he can read her latest letter.
The seven monologues are a thoughtful and lively engagement with the world.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna