Pros: Sarah Cameron is positively brilliant as both writer and performer.
Cons: Quite long for a monologue piece, and no proper interval.
It’s always a treat to attend the Soho Theatre, not only for its convenient central location but also for the venue’s intimate but modern feel – the perfect combination of cosy and trendy. The bar is fantastic and spacious and the upstairs studio roomy but still intimate. Since I first attended a show in the venue’s third floor black box three years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all kinds of different work and design in the space, from the instillation of a real grass stage floor to colourful comedy outfits to a stage filled with various instruments. The venue’s current production in starkly simple: A plain chair in the centre of a white chalk ring, but the story woven by performer and writer Sarah Cameron is rich and imaginative enough to populate the whole stage and transport you the Tim-Burtonesque world she creates with her words and body.
Before Cameron’s yarn began, I entered the studio with a glass of water. An usher offered me a program and assured me there was a napkin inside – I wondered if I looked that much like the kind of person who might spill (I am, but that’s beside the point). But no, upon closer inspection of the program, I understood that the show came with a tasting menu! This is quite unique, and I was rather excited, and also a little disappointed as I’d just left a big meal. But the cake, date, whisky, and chocolate served throughout the evening was the perfect dessert, so it all turned out quite well.
Straight away, Cameron informs us that her story is a strange one: the tale of how a man got so fat that he grew into his own chair – or maybe, she suggest, the chair grew into him. She catches the attention of her audience immediately, and the strange, dark, magical story comes life on her tongue; her Scottish brogue adds delightfully to the charm and fantasy of the tale. In turn, Cameron is gluttonous husband, overworked wife, and overlooked child, and her performance as each is charming, but the real power lies in her narration. Her humour and cadence as a knowing third party is a pure treat, it’s as if we’re being let in on juicy gossip by a friend and being told a bedtime story by our kindly granny all at once.
Cameron’s impressive monologue was broken up by three short interludes in lieu of an actual intermission. We were served snacks, but there wasn’t enough time to leave for the loo or get some air on the outside street, and I did find myself getting a bit antsy, despite Cameron’s prowess as a story teller. Two hours is just a tad too long for comfort, regardless of the quality of the show, and I think that can be said for audience and performer, as Ms. Cameron did start to falter and look a bit tired near the end. Still, she’s a force to be reckoned with and one to watch.
I won’t say much regarding the plot, as the gothic nature of the story is best heard from Cameron’s mouth and I wouldn’t want to ruin it, but I will say the story is equally chilling, hilarious, and heart-warming and certainly worth a visit – plus the snacks weren’t bad, though luckily enough I didn’t eat enough to grow into my chair!
Author: Sarah Cameron
Director: Suzy Willison
Producer: Clod Ensemble
Booking Information: This production has finished its run and will move to the Canada Water Culture Space on 11 March. More information can be found here.