Pardon My Simplicity

Allister Bain
Rosemary Branch Theatre
to

The voices of the children she used to teach, or maybe even those of the ones she was at school with herself, fill the head of Jamaican born Trisha as she sits at her computer trying to master its technology and embarks on a long stream-of-consciousness monologue which is followed by monologues which we gradually realise, as their stories overlap, are from family members and an Irish friend and neighbour.

It is a play that expresses concerns and problems of the moment, a microcosm of today’s world where new technology and its effect is changing behaviour and social patterns, creating new problems. It reflects the way that e-mail, the Internet and mobile phones have influenced the way that we communicate, reducing real personal contact while filling our lives with a superfluity of messaging demanding our attention. 

Widowed Trisha looks back on an often happy marriage to her saxophone playing husband Lloyd, though when he went back to Jamaica she decided to stay in Britain, Jamaican society didn’t suit her any more. She starts getting ready to go out and can’t remember where she left her handbag and remembers how, stressed by coping with her pupils, she once accidentally failed to pay for a handbag, and as she went back to the cash desk was accused of shoplifting. Now she’s having memory lapses on a bigger scale.

Neighbour Lizzie doesn’t feel she fits back in Ireland either and remembers taking Trisha when going back to visit relatives in Ireland. Lizzie has a son in the army in the Middle East. She misses him and gets upset by news items about soldiers killed.

Rocky, Trisha and Lloyd’s musician son is doing a job he hates but it was all he could get, the only interview out after 40 applications. He’s set upon by a gang and then given a lift home by a copper. Policeman Dave used to be a tearaway in his mother’s class now he wants to be his sister Bianca’s boy friend. She’s working in a bank and set on making a career in finance. “Never,” she says, “take directions from someone else’s roadmap.”

These are four interesting character studies and they are beautifully played by Judy Hepburn as Trisha, Colette Kelly as Lizzie, Marcus Frasier as Rocky, Deidre Pascall as Bianca and Geoffrey Burton as Lloyd who comes playing out of Trisha’s memory. 

Director Joseph Charles presents it very simply, achieving a style that embraces verse elements in the writing so that they seem entirely natural. Theatre is most effective when there is something happening or interaction between characters, and that is true here when characters are brought together, though they handle their monologues with skill. Trisha's opening one is long and made to feel longer because the production treats it as an interior monologue that we hear rather than acknowledging the audience and sharing it with them, which would have provided its own form of interaction.

Nevertheless, the writing and the performance hold our interest as she presents a woman now on her own and finding the world around her rapidly changing. She and Lizzie express feelings that many in the audience, older people especially, will share; a reminder that they are not the only ones.

Howard Loxton