Spine at the Soho
Spine is the acclaimed creation of playwright Clara Brennan – it chronicles the explosive friendship between a rebellious teenager and an elderly East End widow. Known as a “politically conscious new work”, Spine may sound as though it could be a political heavyweight, but in fact it’s a light-hearted, witty piece of theatre that injects subliminal and occasionally extremely loud political condemnation. Unashamedly brash and uncomfortably rude, Brennan is not afraid to tell it how it is. Amy, an all-British chav meets hardnosed feminist, shouts about her troubled life and victorious rejection of her crude boyfriend, advising us to “back up and go home ladies if he’s not feeding the pony!” while activist pensioner Glenda is determined to leave behind a political legacy and save angry Amy from the Tory scrapheap.
Playing both characters in an hour-long monologue, Rosie Wyatt’s energy is incredibly unbounded and her acting mesmerising. Wyatt adds colour, pace and depth as she commands the stage and involves the audience. In fact, her control is so great that it is easy to forgive her the occasional unintentional blend of voice as she shifts from one character to the other.
Brennan also does a great job to bring home current themes in such a short span of time. “You’re a people person. Be more angry!” cajoles Glenda as she channels Amy’s anger to politics, grooming her to fight for the future where “you lot are safe again”. And, gradually, Amy spends more time with Glenda, reading, learning and growing. Will she mature to be the face and voice for many in a future that is becoming bleaker for proletariat youth as politicians drive through relentless cuts to public services, ignoring people as they power ahead?
Intelligently written and funny, Brennan and Wyatt make a good team. It is a hard task for an actor to lead and engage in a one-person play and Wyatt does that in abundance. Nonetheless, despite Wyatt’s obvious talent, it is difficult to maintain interest at times and one wonders whether a monologue was the best means of expressing this powerful message: Brennan sometimes seems more concerned with showing off literary prose than in breaking boundaries. Nonetheless, despite the odd inconsistent use of language for a brassy chav, Spine will make you laugh, think and even cry. It’s Wyatt’s charm as an actor that lingers on.
Spine is on at Soho Theatre until 2nd November 2014, for further information or to book visit here.