Californian Lives at King’s Head Theatre
Playwright and actor Martin Foreman’s monologues are an intimate study into the lives of three people living in California. The first is a young man in his 30’s, sitting alone in a diner. Speaking with a broad New Jersey twang, he tells us about his attitudes towards women, including his failed marriage and his inability to relate to his six year-old daughter. One day, while driving through a suburban area, he sees a beautiful woman in her garden and becomes immediately infatuated. He shows his appreciation for her in a self-styled epithet: “A bimbo you screw, a babe you talk to a bit, then screw, a woman you love”.
Despite his thinly veiled misogyny and arrogance, Robin Holden’s portrayal of the character leaves you pitying rather than despising him. Opening night jitters could be to blame for his reluctance to pause for too long, but the barrelling pace keeps you interested. Foreman’s diction and phrasing seems a natural choice for this brash character and, even if Holden’s accent sometimes veers slightly off-course, the actor is a powerful force on stage.
The second monologue, played by John Vernon, is the highlight of the night. Vernon plays an older Californian man, reminiscing about time spent with other “creatures of habit,” the regulars of a gay bar. When a friend brings a black acquaintance into the fold, prejudices come to light after a crime is committed. Vernon is a professional, so completely at ease in the imagined space of the bar that you see it vividly through his eyes. He pulls the audience with him through the story, never losing momentum or their attention. He is a great imitator, switching through the variety of nasal voices and accents of the other punters, and drawing both humour and pathos out of the writing.
The final monologue, played by Carolyn Lyster, is different to the others. Lyster plays a lonely old woman speaking to her dead husband – a fact that is instantly apparent and not the great reveal that it was perhaps intended to be. This monologue is overtly dramatic yet predictable while the others are quietly intense and surprising. Lyster’s monotone voice lacked the impulsion of the previous portrayals and was a weepy finale to an overall enjoyable night.
Californian Lives is at the King’s Head Theatre until 26th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.