Home » Reviews » Drama » The B*easts, Underbelly Cowgate – Review
Credit: Alan Harris
Credit: Alan Harris

The B*easts, Underbelly Cowgate – Review

Pros: Dolan holds the audience in the palm of her hand, with a monologue that never loses pace or relevance.

Cons: The plot may be too far-fetched for more sceptical audience members.

Pros: Dolan holds the audience in the palm of her hand, with a monologue that never loses pace or relevance. Cons: The plot may be too far-fetched for more sceptical audience members. Monica Dolan confirms she is still one of Britain’s most versatile actors (best known for roles in Witness for the Prosecution, W1A and Appropriate Adult), but also shows her writing talent in this timely piece. Dolan takes on the self-written role of a psychotherapist tackling a high-profile case of alleged child abuse. Initially, we know little about Dolan’s character, Tessa, because the focus is on her controversial…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A highly intelligent and nuanced one-woman play, written by and starring Monica Dolan. The B*easts is unafraid to confront the media’s conflicting body image rhetoric, and the damage it could inflict on young children.

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Monica Dolan confirms she is still one of Britain’s most versatile actors (best known for roles in Witness for the Prosecution, W1A and Appropriate Adult), but also shows her writing talent in this timely piece. Dolan takes on the self-written role of a psychotherapist tackling a high-profile case of alleged child abuse. Initially, we know little about Dolan’s character, Tessa, because the focus is on her controversial patient, ‘Karen – not her name, but we’ll call her Karen’, and Karen’s daughter Lila, the child at risk. The set design is deliberately neutral and de-personalised, mirroring your average therapist’s office: a bucket chair, a side table, and bland carpet tiles. Tessa’s costume is similarly therapist-specific: floaty jumper, white shirt, earthy tones. But a few clever hints in the dialogue soon see the psychotherapist’s personal views and circumstances emerge.

The B*easts taps into modern parenting dilemmas including when to indulge your child, and when to stand your ground, pornification, sexualisation and media hypocrisy over body image (tabloids bleating about family values, whilst simultaneously drooling over young actresses once they turn 16). It also touches on lazy misconceptions targeting larger-breasted women: ‘the idea that you’re in charge of them; that you thought of them yourself’, plus the squeamish, hyper-sexualised attitude towards breastfeeding.

These heavyweight issues are fused into the script without lecturing the audience or providing neat conclusions. At one point, Tessa argues, ‘whose is Lila’s body?’, and there’s no easy answer, whether Lila is a bubbly three-year-old or a strong-willed eight-year-old shaping her body to someone else’s standards.

It may not provide much light relief, and some may think it’s far-fetched, but The B*easts is a believable piece that deserves to be talked about. Dolan has done herself proud by analysing our toxic blend of superficial pop culture and a parenting style that kills with kindness.

Author: Monica Dolan
Director: John Hoggarth
Producer: Suzanna Rosenthal for Something for the Weekend
Box Office: 03333 444 167
Booking Link: http://www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/whats-on/the-beasts
Booking Until: 27 August 2017

About Polly Allen

Polly Allen
Polly Allen is a freelance lifestyle journalist based in Sussex, but often found in London. Her earliest memory of theatre was a Postman Pat stage show; she's since progressed to enjoying drama, comedy and musicals without children's TV themes. Her favourite plays include Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, and A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood.