One Of A Kind (The Covid-19 Monologues #1)
Elysium Theatre Company
To date, Elysium Theatre has concentrated on producing high-quality plays by established authors. The Covid-19 Monologues, a series of short online plays, is a move towards original work and shows no loss of quality.
During the enforced move to online plays, there have been a number that used the coronavirus lockdown as a theme and generally took the approach of praising frontline workers while keeping away from criticising the government’s handling of the crisis or digging too deep into the emotional impact. Author Rachael Halliwell goes straight for emotion—One Of A Kind is a bittersweet monologue that moves from gentle reminiscing about family life in the past to trying to cope with tragedy.
It was commonplace for people to fantasise about how they would use the extra time generated by the imposition of lockdown—writing a novel or learning a new language. Diane (Sarah Boulter) takes a more practical approach. She enjoys her job as a reporter on a local newspaper but, when furloughed, decides to put her skills to use in an unorthodox manner. Stan, Diane’s father, is in poor mental health and has moved into a care home. Lockdown means Diane is unable to visit but the chance to go uncover and work as a care assistant offers the opportunity to meet while carrying out official duties.
Rachael Halliwell drip-feeds plot points subtly through Diane’s tear-stained monologue. The shifting attitude towards care workers, previously regarded as low-skilled, is reflected in the bitter comment that the ‘clap for carers’ does not really compensate for years of neglect. Halliwell does not spare anyone from criticism, especially Diane whose torment and self-imposed guilt is achingly apparent.
Jake Murray directs as if for the stage with Sarah Boulter, in a single unchanging location, delivering her monologue straight to the audience through the screen. It is an approach that suits the script suggesting the character is unable to move on until she has addressed past events. The mood is gentle and reflective, a character trying to come to terms with the worst possible outcome having hoped only for the best.
Sarah Boulter gives an excellent and deeply honest performance. Without make-up, and with the camera close to her face, she seems naked and exposed. Considering the emotional impact of the play, Boulter is restrained—on the edge of, but never giving into, tears. The overall impression is that of someone so devastated as to be unaware of her own strength, yet Sarah Boulter’s powerful performance leaves us in no doubt Diane will be able to survive.
Elysium Theatre Company will be uploading a new play every two days until 9 October and One Of A Kind suggests they will be essential viewing.
Reviewer: David Cunningham