The Indecent Musings of Miss Doncaster 2007
Think and Hit
East Riding Theatre
Annabel York, whose one woman show The Indecent Musings of Miss Doncaster 2007 played to a capacity audience at the East Riding Theatre in Beverley on Friday evening, was brought up in Rossington—an area of Doncaster so poor that when the drama teacher at the local secondary school organised a trip to Sheffield, many of the kids asked her if it was a long journey. Middle class luvvies like me may yearn for a more diverse audience, but we rarely consider how they might get themselves to a theatre if they haven’t got a car.
Beverley is not too reminiscent of Rossington, so how would the audience react to York’s self-penned tale of a faded Doncaster beauty queen, her disastrous personal life and her drunken exhibitionism, told in no-holds-barred graphic detail?
They loved it.
Of the production’s many strengths, the greatest is York’s physical dexterity, choreographed expertly by Rebecca Louden’s adventurous direction. York dances, mimes and gyrates into the grimy world of Donna Jackson with a level of visceral comedy worthy of Dario Fo or Jacques Le Coq. It is a joy to see such complete ownership of a stage, especially on those occasions when York personifies the many characters in Donna’s life: for example her humourless (“southern”!) boss of the insurance firm and her two priggish colleagues in HR—the one shrill and Glaswegian, the other silent and outraged.
The most compelling feature of York’s Donna is her unapologetic, often outrageous ability to live ‘in the moment’. A sexual encounter with a stranger who has a predilection for sadomasochistic games is dismissed as "fucking weird" and causes her no more trauma than the tampon stealing cat of her next ‘beau’. If she feels mortified that her e-mail to her colleague informing him of his pay rise (“Now you can afford that Thai bride”) is seen by all in the office, it’s a shame that is only fleeting. Donna doesn’t self-evaluate, doesn’t agonise over her actions or worry that one of her reckless sexual encounters might prove fatal. She lives her life, frantically and at full speed without reflection or remorse. And when the reasons for her mad search for—well, search for anything that can anaesthetise her pain—become clear, like in most strong dramas, the reasons are shown, not explained.
At the heart of Donna’s pain is her dying father, whose decline is shown in scenes of stillness when we hear only the rhythmic labours of an oxygen mask. This example of the brilliant sound design by Oliver Do Rohan serves as more than a mere accompaniment to York’s performance; it is an essential and stirring part of the world of the play, strikingly at odds with Donna’s frantic behaviour.
There is still work to do, however. The ending, whilst moving, is too contrived and giving the father a ‘beyond the grave’ voice jars with the rest of the production. I’m also not convinced by the ‘stand-up’ style of the show’s opening and closing moments as York seems ill at ease when improvising to audience responses. But there is time between now and a planned spring tour to work on these moments. Ultimately, the show is an energetic, funny, sensitive and engaging piece of theatre.
Reviewer: Richard Vergette