One-handers require a very different kind of storytelling to keep its audience engaged. I have often found myself either on the edge of my seat or dozing off when the entire narrative relies on one actor, but Maddock has expertly crafted these two poetic monologues with a structure not unlike an epic poem. As a writer, I greatly appreciate that some things can only be said in rhyme, and hit much harder when recited. Following the success of his critically acclaimed debut play The Me Plays at the Old Red Lion last year, Andrew Maddock brings a powerful duo of monologues to Islington’s Hope Theatre. Through a unique rhythmic style and some cleverly adaptable set, The We Plays asks its audience to question their own process of judgement upon first impressions – as relevant for the production itself as for the characters we meet.
The first of these two monologues opens with questions and assumptions. ‘Me’, flying off to Cyprus on a solo holiday after what seems to have been a bitter breakup, draws the audience in with relatable quips about the annoying family seated beside him on the plane and his frustrations with flight delays. His judgements of the other holidaymakers he encounters and recurring sightings of the aforementioned family he dubs ‘Fertility Family’ are all judgements we have no doubt made in similar situations. But these observations become darker, more emotional, as the play goes on, and we begin to realise that this man, and his circumstance, are not what we at first presumed. Director Phil Croft and performer John Seaward have taken on Maddock’s words with such strength and spirit. There was a very visceral element to Seaward’s performance, leading the audience from a perspective of lighthearted sympathy and understanding to something that only a handful of people in that dark room would be able to empathise with. At the risk of revealing spoilers (although this is mentioned quite early on in the text), there was great power and sensitivity in the way Cyprus Sunsets approached the subject of miscarriage, and the affect this tragedy had on a father as well as a mother. In general, men’s mental health is a subject that often goes untouched, and I commend both performer and creatives in bringing these issues to light with such care.
Directed by Phil Croft
Starring John Seaward
The second and shorter of the two monologues features a red-haired, tartan-clad, Irn Bru-drinking, “ready-to-kick-a-bawbag-in-the-bollocks” Glaswegian named Pru, whose given name, as she tells us roughly six thousand times, is Prucilla Elizabeth Ally McCoist a Wee Dash of Salt N’Pepa Leigh, portrayed by Jennifer O’Neill. Pru’s take-me-or-leave-me confidence is charming from the get-go, but O’Neill’s energy seemed to falter as Pru’s tragic past is revealed, leaving behind some of that attitude that had been so engaging at the start. The rhythm of Maddock’s poetry that had been so mesmerising in Seaward’s performance seemed to be half-hearted in Irn Pru, and the rhythm and clarity of the writing is somewhat lost. Towards the final moments of the performance, however, O’Neill re-engages her audience with a strong and heartfelt promise to her unborn child, and we are left rooting for her as she determines to triumph over adversity.
Directed by Ashley Winter
Starring Jennifer O’Neill
Maddock’s poetic writing and vibrant characters are complemented by creatively effective direction by Croft and Winter, as well as their simple yet versatile set design. Both pieces deal with sensitive themes such as suicide and assault, but neither character is defined by their circumstances, and the positive underlying messages of optimism and genuine human kindness leave its audience hopeful and upbeat.
The We Plays by Andrew Maddock
The Hope Theatre until 15 October 2016
Tickets Available: www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/the-we-plays
[Thank you to http://www.TheatreBloggers.co.uk for this opportunity!]