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monolog 2 (Susan Elkin reviews)

Society/company: Chickenshed
performance date: 12 Feb 2019
venue: Chickenshed Studio Theatre. Chase Side, Southgate, London N14 4P


Following the success of last year’s monologue programme, comes Chickenshed’s new set of seven monologues which, together make a varied, interesting and impressively diverse evening of theatre.

This year, according to the company’s Artistic Director, Lou Stein, the mixed panel of Chickenshed members received a wide range of submissions from which these seven were chosen – and they were submitted ‘blind’ in the interests of fairness. The final selection takes us from pregnancy to prison and from dystopia to a hostel.

The strongest and most arresting of the seven both happen to be performed by their writers. Stranger by Alesha Bhakoo, a stonkingly good actor, explores the experience of being a second generation immigrant. Her character feels British and banters with British colleagues except that she is, in a sense different. Bhakoo has a very effective voice and a splendid sense of timing – and she takes the whole audience by surprise at the end when she turns on the houselights and pretends to come out of character. Directed by Millie Rolle, it’s an outstanding performance.

So is Milly Rolle’s own enactment of her own My Universe Exploding. Her character is newly pregnant and reflecting on the extraordinary development inside her. It’s a very sparky script with some very frank humour although the underlying questioning and reflections are deadly serious. Rolle, who has a splendidly expressive face which she uses well, is a pretty electrifying actor to watch. This monologue is directed by Tiia-Mari Makinen,

Also moving and compelling is Keiran Faye in We Are All In It Together by Peter Hastings, directed by Rachel Yates, assisted by Ashley Driver. The character is depicting life in a prison cell when you’re in for “white collar crime” and it’s graphically, movingly redolent of first hand experience. I rather liked Barbara Bakhurst’s The Hostel Angel too with Sophie White (directed by Grace Coulson-Harris) as a sad teenager trying hard to be positive while her mentally ill mother is elsewhere and she and her stepfather are in a hostel.

New writing is the life blood of living and lively theatre and monolog 2 is a fine way of celebrating it although there are some presentational problems. The venue is the shed in Chickenshed’s grounds which accommodates maybe 30 people. Used as a classroom during the day, it is warm, intimate, nicely contained and in many ways very suitable for work of this sort.

Unfortunately, though, you cannot see, other than from the front row, what any actor is doing if he or she moves to the ground or even bends over. Moreover there is no sound proofing. Traffic roars past continuously and you can often hear voices outside as people walk the nearby pavement all of which is a bit distracting.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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