Pros: Well written and a very clever paradox between the two shows.
Cons: Three hours is a long time for monologue-based performances.
As part of the Wandsworth Fringe, the Selkirk Upstairs in Tooting played host to two well-written plays that, on the surface, seem to feature young women who are at a bit of a loss with their circumstances. Each play has a rather interesting twist to it, which connects and aligns the situations the women have found themselves in.
In Twenty-Five, we meet young Laura, who is a perfect embodiment of the instability, angst, and cyclic bad decision making that seems to run rampant in the post-university but pre-career-you-thought-you’d-have London twenty-somethings. She’s a younger, more modern Bridget Jones; except this one doesn’t mysteriously live on her own in an expensive London Bridge flat, and for that reason, I much prefer Laura’s more honest take on life.
Whilst Jones is amusing and spot-on with her analysis, I’m not overly convinced by the staging, which largely seems to alternate between sitting and standing every five or so minutes. It’s a solo performance, and Jones, who is also the play’s author, does very well to hold the audience’s attention and interest as she tells of the trials and tribulations of single twenty-something life in Clapham.
Would Madame Like a Line With Her Blowdry?, begins with the likeable Phoebe Higson as Becca; a young single mother regretting the life she missed out on. We then move through time and meet all of the people who have surrounded Becca and her daughter Amelia through their lives. Occasionally the connection of all the faces we meet is slow to kick in, but this is a very thoughtful play with quite a surprising realization halfway through. There’s a lot of local flavor in both performances, and the reference to Infernos in both plays is genuinely funny—particularly when we reach 2030 in time and someone asks how this place is still open.
The drawback of the evening is that both performances are really very good in their own rights, but the similarities make the subject matter seem drawn out and characters blur together over the evening. It’s clever and intriguing to see how the subject matter of the two performances relate to each other – each examines a life or lives pivoting around an unexpected – or unwanted? – pregnancy. However, it is also tricky to see a clear enough divide of the characters involved in each play and there is a great deal of overlap in the characterization.
Both plays are well-written, interesting and very approachable, and while I see the point of aligning them back to back given the subject matter, it does make for a rather long evening of monologues. As the characters only ever appear on their own in scenes, and speak directly to the audience, you leave the play having been spoken at directly for 3 hours, which is a little bit overwhelming.
That’s not to say the scenes are without merit; just when you wonder where Would Madam Like A Line With Her Blowdry? is headed, Warren Brooking as Alex delivers an absolutely tremendous scene that adds a wonderful quality of depth to the overall performance.
It’s a long evening, but one with a very interesting paradox to mull over. You end up feeling that both women made the right decision, but that neither got away without having their lives completely and utterly affected and changed as a result.
Author: Laura Patricia Jones
Director: Laura Patricia Jones
Producer: What do you expect? Theatre
Booking Until: This show has completed its run at the Selkirk Upstairs.
More Information: http://wandsworthartsfestival.com/2014/event/twenty-five