A talking gorilla. A linguist. A choice. Brodie is expecting her first child, but receives unsettling news about the baby. The medical profession offer no answers, and her girlfriend offers no mental or spiritual assistance. Brodie’s quest for guidance leads her to two unlikely sources: the elderly speaker of a dying language, and a gorilla. This is Precious Little, directed by Kate Bannister and currently at home in the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre.
The cast of three highly skilled performers (Jenny Delisle, Jessica Kinsey and Deborah Maclaren) stretched themselves to the task of multi-roling with agility and conviction, and Madeleine George’s writing had plenty of great one-liners, as well as moments of depth and intense feeling. The characters felt fully and impressively realised. There is a lot to recommend Precious Little. Overall though, for me, the story felt overcrowded and the piece as a whole didn’t quite cohere.
Communication seemed to be a key point, but I felt there were so many plates spinning—which, to everyone’s credit, they kept in the air with no problem—that I walked out with a feeling of incompletion in lots of directions. The characters were all deeply interesting and clearly had a lot of work behind them, but to put their complex stories together into a mere 80 minutes left them all indistinct, as though drawn and then rubbed out, and the piece feeling unfinished. It felt more like part one of a two parter than a standalone play. The gorilla being realised onstage added nothing. This is not a criticism of the performance, merely that I felt the scenes featuring the gorilla’s inner monologue added nothing to the story, and with the play being short, those were minutes that might have been more wisely spent with other characters.
Precious Little didn’t do it for me, but for reasons of taste and preference, not because anything abut it is poor. The small stage was well used, the scene changes were fluid and there was never any confusion as to who we were watching as we switched between characters. The play held my attention, with 80 minutes flying by, and the Brockley Jack is a smart venue with warm staff, chatty locals and reasonably priced drinks. My companion and I were left wondering what the point was, but hell, I work with the public. I have that thought at least once everyday.