Initially written as a 15-minute short for Theatre Uncut—a movement responding to current political events—Clara Brennan’s provocative Spine has since been fleshed out into a full, hour-long play and arrives at Soho Theatre after a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe.
The studio stage is filled with towers of precariously balanced books, a mixture of genre and age, and it is into this setting that our unlikely protagonist Amy (Rosie Wyatt) makes her entrance, foul mouthed and brimming with anger.
Launching into a pacy monologue that is maintained for the duration of the performance (a true testimony to the skills of the young actor), Wyatt regurgitates the misadventures of a contemporary teenager who feels disenchanted with life.
Drawn into a world of burglary and bad sex by her dysfunctional boyfriend, Amy’s frustration is palpable as she recounts a fist-fight with her best friend, an argument with her struggling mother and a menstrual cycle that costs her a job.
Black-eyed and bloody-knuckled, Amy has truly had enough; that is, until she meets Glenda.
An elderly book lover filled with her own frustrations, Glenda and Amy strike an unlikely friendship that injects humour and warmth into the play whilst addressing key political issues.
The pair have more in common than they think. Reluctant to admit to her light-fingered escapades, Amy learns that Glenda’s books are nicked—in a gallant attempt to save them from a local library closure—and as the duo devour each text, they attack ideas of government, austerity and social priority.
It is a terrific accomplishment for both Brennan and Wyatt. Brennan’s ability to write a monologue play that keeps its audience captivated until the final line is no mean feat and Wyatt’s excellent portrayal of both Amy and Glenda is cleverly executed with subtle changes in tone and stance.
There is an energy to both script and performance that cannot be ignored and the revolutionary air conjured onstage extends its tendrils into the lap of each audience member, evoking a sense of camaraderie and support.
An intelligently drawn character, Amy is both vulgar and endearing, accessible and overbearing, with a strong youthful voice that has something to say.
It could be argued that the pace demands a lot from its audience and the relentless reel of profanities may not be to everybody’s taste, but Spine is true to its name—a play with backbone—and it is difficult to criticise that.
Reviewer: Alecia Marshall