Monolog at the Chickenshed
Debuting at the Chicken Shed in North London, Monolog is a short and to-the-point peek into the lives of four very different characters, each facing the emotional peril of existence. The end result of Lou Stein’s direction is a series of four monologues, performed by Belinda McGuirk, Lucy-Mae Beacock, Sarah Connolly and Alesha Bhakoo.
In Her Big Chance by Alan Bennett, in the middle of set designer Sebastian Gonzalez’s ode to the 1970s, McGuirk convincingly plays an aspiring actress, with optimistic professional ambitions. This is matched perfectly with the naive hope that her role as the adventurous Travis in a film for the West German market will be her big break. Bennett’s writing kicks off the opening night with a bang, hinting at sexism each time a development in the character comes to play.Simultaneously, the British playwright manages to inject moments of comedy into Lesley’s behind-the-scenes account of making the film.
Diane Samuels’s This Is Me sees Beacock as a writer reminiscing on events in her early life and reflecting on them as an adult. Samuels takes an intriguing look at the monologue format by making the production interactive. The audience hold quotes of different events in her life, making them just as much a part of the story as the actress. Beacock’s portrayal shows a maturity and at the same time a youthful happiness, bringing the memories alive as if we have all lived those moments.
In the second half of the show, Last Piece of the Sun, starring Bhakoo, tells a rattling mental journey from one-night stand to miscarriage, while I Find Love in a Bin by Peter Dowse, featuring Connolly, explores the emotions associated with finding love. Both monologues have a stripped-away set design, and are dependent on the use of dialogue and sound to set the scene: Bhakoo in a Stevenage nightclub and Connolly near Waterloo station. The no-nonsense approach to scenery and lighting allows the plot to take centre stage and the respective actors to maximise their dramatic range. Bhakoo shows an initial resistance to motherhood, but then grips hold of her unborn child until it has to be ripped away. Meanwhile, Connolly jumps from comedic to psychotic, with a heavy suggestion of suicide in the name of love within her first few seconds on the scene.
These are four very different, yet somehow intertwined stories. Each leaves us aware of the passionate nature of our emotions. If anything, being in the form of a monologue gives the production an even bigger impact, as it’s cleverly designed to involve us from the moment the actors appear on stage. Ultimately, however, combining comedy and drama is what makes Monolog truly successful, connecting the audience with the performance.
Monolog is at the Chickenshed from 6th February until 3rd March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the behind the scenes with director Lo Stein here: