Devised by Rosie Wilby, featuring Sophia Blackwell, VG Lee, and Paula Varjack
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Neil Sedaka famously sang that ‘Breaking up is hard to do’, but in The Blue Elephant’s night of spoken word the performers suggest that breaking up with a lover can be liberating and transformative.
Unfortunately, comedian Rosie Wilby, who curated the evening, was ill and unable to attend this one-off show, but in the programme, she writes of being dumped by her girlfriend on April Fool’s Day. It seems a particularly tricky day for this kind of manoeuvre: “You are joking, right…? Ohhhhhh…” But out of the debris of this breakup, Wilby made a comedy show, and, in a similar way, the other three performers, Sophia Blackwell, VG Lee and Paula Varjack, have created art out of failed relationships, in their monologues, poems and jokes.
Supported by the Southwark LGBT network, The Break-Up Monologues, focuses on the L and the B of this initialism, and it’s refreshing to hear bi-sexual voices, which are often overshadowed by the other groups. Varjack’s funny and honest monologue, Couples, explores her wish to sleep with a couple (any gender variation will do), but the killer twist to the story is that, eventually, she has to break up with two people rather than one. Varjack, who is soon to take her solo show Show Me The Money to Edinburgh next month, is a confident and consummate performer and her monologue, Why You Should Never Date An Artist, is a hilarious cautionary tale.
Sophia Blackwell’s approach is slightly different as she offers a single story, interspersed with poetry, about her break-up and make-up. Both funny and heartbreaking, Blackwell begins the story of the break-up with a ‘lesbian bed death’, which is when she and her partner stop having sex. Instead of sex, the two women enter a cycle of ‘eating and arguing’, but always in her head is a voice saying “you can use this, you can use this“, and, indeed, she does use the experience and it’s contained in her book, which she clutches in her hand like a broken-heart.
The last performer, VG Lee, turns up the heat in the already sticky black box of the Blue Elephant with her collection of stories, performances and one-liners. Gags like ‘I’ve never liked hats, can I still be a lesbian?’ may not be the most politically correct, but coming from Lee, who is well into her 60s, they work brilliantly.
Her stories are poignant, too, especially when she remembers her relationship with Brenda. At their advanced ages, they were no longer rushing up the stairs stripping off their clothes but entreating the other to ‘hang on to the bannister’ or ‘take a breather on the landing.’ It’s important to know that older LBGTQ+ people fall in – and out of – love.
Despite the absent Wilby, and the heat, this show is a great success. From the audience reaction, there was definitely the impression that The Break-Up Monologues could become a regular strand at the Blue Elephant with other comedians from the LGBTQ+ community joining in. After all, failed relationships are common for most of us.
Reviewed on 19 July 2017 | Images: Contributed