The WE Plays – Hope Theatre, London

Writer: Andrew Maddock
Directors: Phil Croft and Ashley Winter
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Judgement, we’re all guilty of it, thinking we know all about someone’s life based solely on their age / appearance / what they sound like. And these first impressions tend to override logic because underneath, they are the same complex bundle of emotions, egos, experiences and aspirations as we are. Andrew Maddock’s new monologues The We Plays subverts the audience’s expectation to show us that we’re all just struggling to find the way ahead.

The first story Cyprus Sunsets focuses on ‘Me’, a young man in his 20s jetting out for a boozy week in Cyprus after breaking up with his girlfriend. On first impression he is a stereotypical lad, a notorious Brit abroad looking to sleep around and party. But as Me revisits the places he’s been to year after year, the memories begin to overwhelm him and the real reason he’s come back becomes painfully clear. Director Phil Croft also finds numerous impressive uses for a suitcase, while Tom Turner’s lighting adds considerably to the mood.

This is clever writing from Maddock who slowly allows droplets of information about Me’s backstory to feed through the narrative. Initially, he’s not someone you like, and John Seaward’s shouty pitch makes him seem lairy and contemptuous of fellow travellers. But things soften considerably as Me nostalgically recalls happier times, out drinking with “his boys” and meeting the love of his life who makes him “tinglish”.

So far so standard, but Maddock then takes the story in an unexpected direction, giving us a rare male perspective on an issue that casts Me in a new light, a man haunted by loss and overwhelmed by memories he cannot fight. Seaward’s performance weaves its spell, showing Me’s developing humanity and kindness that is incredibly touching, and quite far from the aggressive lad that 45 minutes earlier you’d decided not to like.

Alongside this piece is Irn Pru,a female monologue about growing up in Glasgow, patriotism, unemployment and self-belief. Pru is a feisty Scottish “goddess” who lost her job at a local café when a new Waitrose opened nearby. Sweary and crude, Pru takes everything life throws at her, and inspired by her hero entrepreneur Michelle Mone, she decides you have ‘just got to get up and keep trying’.

Again, Pru is not a character you instantly like, she is consciously funnier than Me but she appears arrogant, vain and deluded at the start of the story. Yet Maddock and performer Jennifer O’Neill slowly reveal her personality to us, a girl whose bravado is a form of protection from the world that’s only ever let her down, and in ways that are both cruel and strangely empowering for her.

Cyprus Sunsets and Irn Pru work very nicely together with plenty of common themes including a strong attachment to specific geographical locations, the interplay between memory and change, and the effect of children on relationships. Occasionally the drama of the more introspective moments is unfortunately interrupted by intrusive music from elsewhere in the pub theatre that undermines the strong performances, and the advertised run time of 95 minutes is closer to 135 with a long interval.

The We Plays show people trying to find themselves after momentous events which Maddock pitches nicely between comedy and tragedy. Together they are a clear reminder that first impressions are almost always wrong, underneath a tough, brash or gregarious exterior everyone has their troubles, and people are never what they seem.

Runs until15 October 2016 | Image: Contributed



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