This is a review of monologues 11 – 15 in a series of 15
My first two days in Ridleyville, where reality is of the hyper variety, were rewarding, so I hoped my third and final visit would reveal some further gems. Considering most of the series was released in weekly episodes there must have been a good deal of pressure on the writer to come up with the goods in plenty of time. It is perhaps no wonder therefore that many of the pieces are so brief but, if I’m being honest, I have found that I tend to favour the more developed monologues as something to get my teeth into and have perhaps regarded the shorter examples as more sketches than fully developed canvasses. All the same, The Beast Will Rise has turned out to be strongly consistent as well as taking the art of the filmed monologue forward into the “new normal”.
The first three plays in this last section are, indeed, all very short. Night, immediately springs a surprise just by the simple fact that it takes place outside which immediately takes it to another dimension. The speaker (Tyler Conti) is lying on the ground with his head propped against a tree listening to the sounds of nature around him. We learn just a little about his life and various incidents that connect him to nature. For some reason the phone he is recording on keeps slipping; shortly we find out why and it is a shocking ending as the phone slips just one last time.
For the brief monologue which is Puzzle we are back to a dystopian world where bombs go off in the streets destroying buildings and ominous lists of names appear on the noticeboard at the Post Office – bomb victims presumably. An almost unblinking and plainly petrified Eleanor Fanyinka explains that her sister and nephew have moved away. She has bought the latter a jigsaw, a symbol of connection which provides a bigger picture. There’s a metaphor here straining to get out but like so much of Ridley’s work it remains just slightly out of reach.
Snow features a young man (Joseph Drake) recalling one of his earliest memories and how he was with his father when it happened. His child’s brain couldn’t comprehend what snow was then – and all he can really grasp now is that he felt safe in his father’s arms as he whirled him round. The memory is as insubstantial as the snow itself and leaves more questions than it answers.
Rosewater is a little more fulfilling. Yanexi Enriquez starts the piece in ebullient mood as she talks about the choir to which she belongs. She doesn’t particularly care for religion, but they are a good singing group and she also has an interest in fellow member Roland. As her story unfolds, she twice finds herself wandering towards a painful memory and pulls herself up short until able to continue in a lighter vein. But her story inexorably drags her back to the source of her distress until the truth is revealed. Ridley cleverly does this in a few selected words rather than spelling it out, concentrating on the narrator’s sensory perceptions as she relives her distress. It is a well-judged performance from Enriquez and there are shades of master monologist Alan Bennett about it – and that is meant as a compliment.
The last of the fifteen pieces, Cactus, is a blast from start to finish. In effect it is an action film in miniature told by a manic narrator who paints a vivid picture with words (and the occasional sound effect). In a future where the threat of environmental disaster has finally occurred, and the landscape is left parched and dry the main character is a two-bit hoodlum engaging in dog napping and messing around with firearms. When he and best friend Silvio are caught by the local Mr Big using the latter’s favourite cactus for target practice they are bundled off to his “death cells”. Silvio meets an extremely grisly end, described in Tarrantinoesque detail which, if it doesn’t make you wince, you’re a tougher soul than I am. With the help of Wesley – the object of the narrator’s desire who is fortunately in the vicinity – an escape, filled with the darkest of humour, is carried out and the two make their getaway pursued by the vengeance seeking gang. What follows is straight out of a Hollywood pursuit scene although, as this is Ridley, we are denied the usually obligatory resolution and happy ending. Kyle Rowe brings an abundance of energy and a fine sense of comic timing to the central role as he re-enacts and relives the plotline. He seems to be in some sort of motel room at the start so presumably he has escaped the pursuit, but we don’t know how – nor do we know what becomes of Wesley. Perhaps there will be the inevitable Hollywood sequel – if there is it should be directed by the Coen Brothers.
That last remark means no disrespect to Wiebke Green who has done a fine job in directing all fifteen of these monologues and found enough variation, especially in the later pieces, to ensure that we don’t suffer from filmed monologue overkill. Ridley’s series is one of the most original responses to the pandemic I’ve come across and I’ve been entertained throughout. It’s also been fun spotting some of the memes that run across the plays – dolphins, the Sistine Chapel, telescopes, pizzas, stars and chihuahuas all make more than one appearance. I’m rather glad I waited until all the pieces were finalised and watched them in one weekend as it gave me a greater sense of the achievements that this left field, but thoroughly absorbing series has made. Bravo!
Monologues 1 – 5 reviewed here
Monologues 6 – 10 reviewed here
The Beast Will Rise is available on the Tramp website – click here
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