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One Festival, The Space

A showcase of monologues

★★
Pros: A great platform for new work, and a real mixture of different genres and tones.
Cons: The four shows together make the evening quite long, and some scripts that would benefit from further workshopping.
Our Verdict: A nice and worthwhile survey of different styles of theatrical work and a peek into some upcoming talent, but not fully polished and a bit lengthy.
Courtesy of The Space
Programme B
Deirdre and Me, Rachael Halliwell 
Woman and the Wheel, Sarah Ruff
Carwash (It’s Not My Name), Alison Porter
Sacred Heart, Tim Blackwell
Canary Wharf’s lovely venue, The Space, is currently hosting a festival of monologues and longer solo actor pieces, presented in four different programmes running in repertoire. I attended Programme B to view the pieces listed above, and while I certainly can’t speak for the other programmes, hopefully this review will give you an idea of what to expect, no matter which night you may chose to visit.
Dierdre and Me. Rachael Halliwell’s performance – which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe – took up the bulk of the evening, consisting of the programme’s entire ‘first act’. Halliwell wrote and performed this one act play, and was marvelously entertaining as the isolated Susan White, who has nursed a life-long imaginary friendship with Deirdre Barlow from Coronation Street. Halliwell’s performance is, in its best moments, perfectly and pathetically hilarious – she captures the spirit of the television-obsessed middle-aged woman she wrote for herself excellently. The show is quite funny, but takes a dramatic turn when Susan is committed to an institution, and between jokes and pitiful references her aggression and loneliness also comes through. The serious traits are, unfortunately, not performed with the gusto and freeness with which Halliwell delivers the jokes. However, the play certainly has an arc that keeps you laughing and guessing.
Woman and the Wheel. While you might expect Sarah Ruff’s piece to be most notable for the nudity that The Space warns of prior to the show, what actually drew eyes during her piece was the use of mixed media projections which served as surroundings throughout. While I found the content of the piece confusing at best, I certainly enjoyed the design, which successfully incorporated high-quality animation into live theatre. Woman and the Wheel is essentially the ramblings of a confused woman who has recently been implanted with a contraceptive chip. What I failed to glean from the piece was any kind of real point of view on contraception – it seemed to bounce back and forth between reproduction being good and bad for humanity both economically and emotionally, but it didn’t create a strong case for either so I felt like I was swimming in babble as opposed to being involved in a debate. Again, points for the creative use of technology, but perhaps the attempt to visually dazzle had a negative effect on the structure and content of the piece.
Carwash (It’s Not My Name). Porter’s piece is the shortest leg of Programme B. It features a hospitalized Polish teen, who is presumably speaking to the audience inside his head, as I understood him to be in a coma (although to be honest, I’m not entirely sure). Actor Ed Sheridan was energetic and interesting, and the accent he adopted for the piece was accurate, but he often spoke quickly and it was difficult to understand all of the details of his situation. Again, I was not sure exactly what I was meant to experience through the piece; it was quite short but it examined a length of topics about his life and experiences, his hopes and dreams, and his fears. I struggled to feel immersed as I attempted to grasp the disconnected web of stories and thoughts being revealed in such a small space of time.
Sacred Heart. I won’t say too much on this one, as I don’t want to give too much away too quickly (I think the show does that itself, unfortunately, so I’ll let you hang onto your suspense while you can). I will say that, although the ‘thriller’ nature of the piece fell flat for me because I found the twist predictable, Tim Blackwell’s focus on his character in both his writing and performance was much more successful than the exposition. He was great to watch – although being seated at an angle at the far end of stage made him less acceptable than might be ideal – and had a true energy on stage.
In general, if you’re interested in seeing some new work and some talented actors, One Festival might be worth your trip, but be aware that the pieces are still under construction. In essence they are slightly unpolished and the evening is quite long. However, if you’ve got the patience and the excitement to support new work in its early stages, then do pay them a visit – despite the low rating we would always encourage people to support valuable initiatives like this one.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

One Festival runs at The Space until 3rd February 2013. 
Box Office: 020 7515 7799 or book online at http://space.org.uk/?p=7994

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