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Monday Monologues – The Bush Theatre

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writers: Travis Alabanza, Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu and Shaun Dunne

Directors: Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu and Lynette Linton

Without doubt, monologues are the artform of the pandemic, but it remains to be seen what impact they will have in the future. Will they be used by future generations to document how we lived in lockdown or is their impact ephemeral, quietly forgotten as the world gets back to business?

The Bush Theatre is producing a monologue every fortnight, and there are now three of them on its website, with two more already announced. So far the longest one is only six minutes long, and two struggle with this length, trying to pack in too much. The first, written by Travis Alabanza whose Burgerz was one of the highlights of 2018, details two kind of online encounters that would be easier if they took place in real life. Skype d8 is about two dates, one with a stranger and one with a psychotherapist.

Ibinabo Jack plays a woman who is stressing about what to wear for her online date; should she wear casual sweatpants or should she go for a dress? She worries what message each outfit with relay. It might be a subject she could broach in her therapy sessions but these, too, have moved online. Unfortunately, these dates with her therapist seem underexplored, and while director Lynette Linton has fun clipping together the various scenes, Skype d8 could do with more urgency.

There’s certainly life in Clarissa written by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu and starring Maymuna Abdi. Clarissa is an internet sensation and the monologue is delivered as an Instagram Live chat for her followers. As she necks down a bottle of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference wine she launches into two stories, both of which are hard to follow. One is about a fight at a party; the other is about a ghost. The stories weave together but with Clarissa’s unique vocabulary it’s not quite clear what is happening. The monologue seems part of a longer show where the viewer could get used to Clarissa’s rhythms.

The one that feels most finished is Beds written by Shaun Dunne and performed by Patrick Gibson. He lies on a single bed, a pair of dirty socks, a mug of cold coffee and a pile of books on the floor beside him. In his five minutes he relates the end of a relationship, and while this may be a common enough life-event, Dunne’s words find poetry in the everyday. Gibson at first seems an innocent, and although he’s never angry, he’s bitter. Overall, it’s a complex, layered five minutes, and seems sure to have a history after the reopening of theatres.

With at least two more monologues to come in the next month, we can only hope that they continue until The Bush is able to reopen. It has always managed to showcase a diverse range of voices, and its online content is no exception.

Available here until August 2021

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