Push Yourself, Slightly (The Covid-19 Monologues #2)
Elysium Theatre Company
The second of the Elysium Theatre Company’s COVID-19 Monologues is a distinct change from the first. Chris Dance’s Push Yourself, Slightly is a comedy and initially, apart from a reference to the incompetence of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, seems to have little connection to the COVID theme; so a savage mention of the death toll is unexpected and makes a strong impact.
Surrounded by posters encouraging clients to "Push Yourself Slightly" and "Embrace Your Mediocrity", Jane (Amy Gavin) explains how she found her calling as a Professional Demotivator. Having had her expectations unrealistically raised by friends and family, Jane found the failure of her inventions (slippers that automatically rang for help if the wearer had a fall) to be particularly upsetting. Realising it would have been better had she been told the brutal truth, Jane reinvents herself as a ‘Wellness Consultant’ and sets out to give the too-confident and the over-privileged a dose of harsh reality.
Director Jake Murray sets a tone that is more cheerful and irreverent than hard and cynical. There are excellent observations—there is too much baseless optimism in the world these days and ‘Wellness Consultant' is a job title that means whatever you want—it’s just some words. The concept, however, is not particularly original—Fight Club tackled smug illusions of being special years ago with the remark: ‘’You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake’’. At times, the monologue becomes a series of quick gags with Jane’s ludicrous inventions listed at length. As with all satires, the script is best when it becomes specific—Matt Hancock, we are told, is beyond repair and should be broken down and sold for parts to whoever is building a pillock.
Amy Gavin gives a lively, energetic performance. Gavin makes clear Jane enjoys her work and is being cruel not to be kind but because she regards her clients as deserving harsh treatment. Jane is by no means a fanatic on a mission but rather someone who is having a lot of fun at the expense of those who need taking down a peg.
At 17 minutes, Push Yourself, Slightly is closer to a comedy sketch than a full play but it is very funny and features a fine performance.
Reviewer: David Cunningham