Pros: A well-presented, intelligent monologue based on a very personal, intimate relationship.
Cons: Dub poetry could grate on those unfamiliar with the genre.
Located behind Deptford High Street, The Albany used to be difficult to reach by public transport. So God bless the Docklands Light Railway for bringing the theatre closer to all points of the compass. Now only 25 minutes away from Bank tube station, The Albany is a short walk from Deptford Bridge. Clean and functional, it provides the ideal space for monologue-based performance.
Matilda and Me is a heart warming portrayal of Ria Hartley’s grandmother and the impact she had on her family’s lives. Matilda migrated from Jamaica to England in 1962, but now all of her memories have faded. Ria is desperate to capture these memories for Matilda, herself and everyone. The story comes alive with the most unexpected of props; an old dancette record player, a white marker pen, oranges and a pound of sugar are all used to great effect during the performance. Ria deals confidently with all aspects of her Jamaican heritage including migration, colonialism, racism and interracial marriage. The performance is delivered mainly through dub poetry which is a form of rhythmic speech typically set to a reggae beat. The difference here is that reggae is used to break the monologue down into sections rather than act as accompaniment. The essence of dub poetry is nevertheless well represented with its expressive, tortured vowels and sharp phrasing. This approach to storytelling might not be for everyone, but don’t dismiss it out of hand: like Marmite, it simply is a bit of an acquired taste.
Ria Harley fills the space with an easy-going charm and her smooth, velvety voice makes her very easy on the ears. By the end of the performance, I felt I knew Matilda. I understood her fears, hopes and aspirations when she uprooted the family from Jamaica. Thanks to Ria’s descriptive powers, I was also able to picture her childhood home and her good looks. The story builds to a poignant conclusion and shows how important it is to have meaningful conversations with the people we love. It also explores the concept of memory in remarkable detail and some might question whether this level of navel gazing is necessary. For Ria, it’s about understanding her own background and providing Matilda a vital link with the past. For me, such memories give us the wisdom to live better lives and ensure we look back to remember those we’ve lost. Memories shape our personality and make us unique as individuals. Anyone who wants to understand the human condition will get something important from this performance.
Written and performed by: Ria Hartley
Director: Leo Kay
Dramaturg: Misri Dey
Training and Methodology: D’bi Young Anitafrika
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.