Writer: Ellie Cozens
Ellie Cozens’ one-woman show, Chatting does what it says on the tin. Ellie plays pink-pyjama-clad Jess, a scatty young woman who chats inconsequentially to us, while half-heartedly getting ready to go out. She often drifts off into digressions, acting out one of many scenes from her family’s past.
The set might encourage us to believe that lots of her personal items will be integral to her story. But we are doomed to disappointment. Take the shelves of books, for example. Can they possibly be the possessions of someone quite so lacking in interest or awareness of the outside world as Jess? And when did she acquire them? Was it during her abortive career at ‘a Russell Group university’? Did she learn anything at all from her one-year experience, except to have won the friendship of a mouthy lesbian who seems to disappear from her life?
Jess’s interest lies almost entirely with her family. There’s Gran who takes her to bingo when she’s young, her mother and her aunt Rach, and her little sister, Jemma, with whom she has a fractious relationship. On the sidelines, there’s Josh, a boy she is still claiming to have a crush on even after she has sampled the delights of her Russell Group university.
It’s thin material to spin into a 55-minute-long play, not helped by the fact that Cozens doesn’t manage to convince us that Jess is in fact growing up in the course of it. Her teenage range of expressions never alters. She continues to tell us anecdotes designed to raise a laugh, but which rarely succeed in doing so. There is no sense that Jess, as she gets older, develops self-awareness of, for example, her casual ageism.
As an actor, Cozens shows some ability and as a playwright, she is undoubtedly sincere in trying to create a story arc which will reveal the hollowness of Jess’s life. But she just doesn’t find the necessary edge of irony a monologue requires, nor has she yet developed an ear for telling detail. At times it feels as if she’s thrashing around for ideas, especially when she writes Jess’s manic little bursts of party spirit, requiring her to get the audience involved by sticking on false eyelashes (fortunately not on ourselves) and getting us to do a Mexican wave.
Writing an effective monologue is more difficult than it looks.
Runs until 9 July 202