Pros: Fantastic solo performance and excellent writing
Cons: A touch conventional, and the intensity of the monologue might have grated for some
Last weekend I went to an artist’s commune outside Berlin for a Harvest festival show, where a beautiful Polish Queen delivered a giant illuminated disco ball to the top of an enormous climbing frame before singing a song accompanied by the roaring sound of combine harvesters. Then, a few hours later, everyone did American line-dancing under the disco moonlight. After that we all got naked and danced to Chris de Burgh songs. Cheek to cheek. Literally. No, not really, I made that last bit up.
It’s fair to say, after that experience, I came back to England with a thud. So it was with mild reservation that I arrived at Soho Theatre to see FoolsCap’s production of Spine – a one-woman show that sees a troubled teenager recount the time she befriended a polymathic old woman. “Will the show include hairy German women in Stetsons?” I asked the lady at the desk. Well no, as I found out, it did not.
What it did include was an utterly engaging actor – Rosie Wyatt – doing a fantastic job at portraying the two main characters Amy (the girl) and Glenda (the old lady). The change from the fierce goose-like voice of the youngster to Glenda’s frail croak was particularly impressive. I did overhear some Americans talking about it afterwards, with one feeling the delivery was quite intense and overbearing and caused him to zone out a couple of times. I know, right? Americans complaining about people being overbearing! But he kind of had a point I suppose. And maybe I should stop generalising nationalities.
For me, the richness of the text stood out – dropping in little seeds of content early on, only to see them referenced and flourish later with aplomb. There was incredible emotion, with every line delivered faultlessly and meaningfully. The audience – barring one or two Americans – appeared to be hanging onto every word. I really needed a piss at one point, and even then I preferred to listen to this “rude girl” (I believe is the correct term) proffer wave after wave of social angst rather than hear the tinkling stream of urethral relief. It was that impressive.
It was brilliantly acted, intelligently written and the story was captivating. It even had a valuable social message, something an awful lot of plays lack these days. So where did it fall short? I suppose the first paragraph of this review says it all – it just didn’t have the magic that would have made it a truly unforgettable experience. The writer seemed too concerned with nailing the intricacies of the dialogue and the completeness of the story to break some boundaries and take the audience on an unexpected journey. It was sweet, it was funny, it brought tears to my eyes. But if it were a group of people listening to Chris de Burgh songs, it would still – just about – have had its clothes on.
Author: Clara Brennan
Director: Bethany Pitts
Producer: Francesca Moody / FoolsCap
Booking until: 2 November 2014
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking link: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/spine