It was just about a month ago that I observed that considering the dominant story of all our lives for the last 18 months has been the pandemic, there haven’t really been all that many direct responses to it in the form of theatre pieces. A new addition to the Scenesaver platform looks to rectify that particular shortfall with three monologues about individual experiences and response. Called starkly The Covid-19 Trilogy it comes from Elysium Theatre Company which is based in Durham. During the pandemic they released two sets of five monologues and the three pieces in this set are taken from these. Presumably they are a “best of” collection to whet the appetite; the rest are available on the company’s You Tube channel
- One Of A Kind by Rachael Halliwell – Diane is sitting in a car in Sunderland – why will eventually become clear. She tells us about her job as a reporter on a local newspaper and how, when she was placed on furlough, she took a training course to become a care worker in a residential home – the home into which she has had to move her father. She likens it to undercover work but finds a reward in getting to interact with him; however, tragedy isn’t far away. Halliwell’s script is unsparingly critical of a system which neglected the care sector and although the character’s approach to solving the dilemma of enforced separation may be a novel one, the feelings she expresses seem to speak for many who suffered the same fate. Sarah Boulter gives a finely detailed performance moving the piece from a general criticism of the system to personal tragedy. By the end she is on the brink of tears, and I can imagine that many watching this who had a similar experience will be experiencing similar emotions.
- Fake by Chris Barlas – Marion and husband Stan live off grid in Wales – but not so far off grid that they haven’t got the internet, and this serves to fuel her conviction that the world is full of conspiracy theories. Mobile phone masts have a lot to answer for and her grandson isn’t autistic, it’s because he had the MMR jab forced on him. So, you can imagine what she thinks of the latest attempt to vaccinate the nation. Masks are symbols of repression and to be protested at whenever one can… and so on and so on. Chris Barlas’ nicely structured script makes Marion seem entirely reasonable if a tad eccentric at first but as her claims get ever wilder it is clear she is quite dangerous. And this is backed by Karren Winchester’s performance as she becomes more manic and dogmatic. Yet we are asked to retain a touch of sympathy for a woman who has rather lost touch with her own daughter and increasingly her sanity. I’d strongly suggest that Marion gets in touch with Neville from Denial (another short monologue play which I reviewed here). I think they would probably enjoy each other’s company.
- I Just Called To Say by Rani Moorthy – The protagonist of this third piece is simply listed as “A Son” so it would seem logical that the address made is to a parent. The visual set up indicates that it is taking place over Zoom but there is no indication as to why there are no responses. Has the parent been stunned into silence by the revelations? Hints dropped seem to indicate that what the son has to say was already known but he doesn’t actually say what it is, so we are left to piece together what has happened; that makes this piece a little hard going. Instead of explanations we are given some heavy handed symbolism – the film “The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and an Indian god of indeterminate sex are heavily referenced. When we get to a reminiscence about a brutal attack on the son for daring to be on the streets in outrageously flamboyant clothing, all starts to become clear. Alex Townson’s delivery of Rani Morrthy’s script is heartfelt and well-paced, but I felt this was the least successful of the three pieces. Given the context of the overall title of the trio it was, I’m afraid, fairly obvious where the twist in the tale was going to take us.
The quality of the filming on these three pieces (and presumably the others) is quite high. If they are now starting to lose their topicality a little I guess I can only blame myself for not discovering them sooner. However, what they do provide is a vivid snapshot of how our lives were until fairly recently – let’s hope we don’t go there again.
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece is Sore Afraid. Like James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Nula can’t get out and so spends her time watching the neighbours. It isn’t murder that she sees but sex – lots of it. But then as the days pass things change and we become aware of just why Nula is so interested. Maureen Beattie gives a beautifully modulated performance taking us from buoyant voyeurism to manic concern to despair in a matter of minutes. Michael John O’Neill’s script delivers – this is definitely one to catch
The Covid-19 Trilogy is available via Scenesaver – click here
The rest of the pieces from the two series are available on Elysium’s You Tube channel – click here
Scenes For Survival pieces are available from the NTS website – click here; a number are also available on BBC iPlayer – click here
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