Writer: Gran: Ben Weatherill The Perfect Bottle To Piss In: Debris Stevenson
Director: Suba Das
Theatre has reacted reasonably well to the epidemic; many institutions such as the National Theatre and Sadler’s Wells are streaming different shows each week while other small theatre companies like Papatango and High Tide are working with writers, actors and other creatives to make monologues. There are so many of these monologues around that the Guardian recently published its list of the best ones available. You can read our reviews of the 12 Papatango monologues here and here. At the moment HighTide have two to watch on their YouTube channel, both written by experienced playwrights.
Gran written by Ben Weatherill and posted up in the middle of April already seems a little out-of-date, a risk that this kind of theatre, immediate and responsive, will always encounter. The characters in this 8-minute piece count toilet rolls and jars of coffee they’ve stockpiled, stuck as they are in the early days of lockdown.
Michelle played by Sophie Melville tells us about her family: her mother, her sister, her son, and at first the narrative is confusing and Melville speaks quickly. The memories she relays such as the way her family pronounce the word ‘scone’ are too familiar, and the story meanders strangely for the first four minutes. When Melville relates the Zoom call with her grandmother the story is more focussed and while Weatherill tells us nothing new, he reflects the thoughts of most of us when we talk to our relatives at this time. Melville’s acting ensures this universal monologue has passion, without being too emotional.
The Perfect Bottle To Piss In by Debris Stevenson is a more recent response to the epidemic, and is more like a one-person show than a monologue with Stevenson playing multiple roles, and the film, nicely edited, switching between locations. Like Weatherill’s piece, it takes a while to settle down, and the story – based on Stevenson’s recent experiences – comes into view when we realise that her grandfather is in hospital.
With flashes of humour, Stevenson’s story is never sentimental, and the closing images of the railway lines seem particularly resonant to an urban audience. It really does feel like a tale for our times, and the film’s sudden shifts in location and character show how far this format can be manipulated away from just a talking head in front of a laptop.
Hopefully, in the coming weeks HighTide will post up more of these monologues; two have already been and gone. These days it’s difficult to concentrate on anything for long, and so these bite-sized plays come in useful, but these two may be too close to the bone for some.