I have still yet to set foot in a theatre as a member of an audience and have, of course, missed the experience of reviewing live shows. However, with much material being either live streamed simultaneously or appearing as on demand content shortly afterwards, I can’t complain that there has been nothing to watch – 800+ reviewed productions suggest otherwise. If the pandemic has meant nothing else to the theatre world (and it has) it has widened access to an untold degree and it now seems unlikely that there can ever be a return to the way things were done before. However, the live experience remains the de facto position for any committed theatrephile. It was with this in mind that I thought I might go some way to replicating actual theatre going by turning to four monologues from the considerable tranche put out by Golden Age Theatre over the last eighteen months. The quartet of plays, collectively titled Voices, has been running onstage at the White Bear Theatre in London over the last couple of nights but the videoed versions are still accessible.
Actually, that’s not quite true as one of them (I, Richard) isn’t currently available but there are plenty of others in The Tales From The Golden Age project that could be substituted including one that is a companion piece to another which is included. So it was that I started this two day process with A Strange Romance and Inside Blue both written and directed by Ian Dixon Potter; the pieces have been adapted from his longer play Boy Stroke Girl. The two monologues approach the same set of events from the different perspectives of the pair of characters involved; these are Peter and Blue. The former is a cis male while the latter doesn’t believe in gender constructs and refuses to pigeonhole themself, presenting an androgynous front to the world at large typified by adopting a name that is entirely neutral. The narrative focuses on the growing relationship between the two and asks the burning question can love blossom when gender is uncertain? As such the two plays go right to the heart of the whole of the ongoing gender debate where the terminology surrounding identity seems to grow by the day – and if you don’t believe that, just take a look at this list.
The plays have a shared storyline which, given that they set out to challenge conventional norms, rather slavishly follow largely traditional and certainly chronological lines. Peter meets Blue and Blue meets Peter in a crowded coffee shop. They discover a shared passion for science fiction and go to a film together. They then start dating regularly, moving swiftly to the point where they meet with his friends and parents though that is fraught with some hostility, notably from the two males. He becomes protective of his new companion, not that Blue is cowed by conventional male aggression anyway. Peter particularly goes on a swift learning curve about the whole business of gender politics encouraged by Blue’s uncompromising stance not only on that topic but also on the vexed questions of nationality, religion and political ideology. However, he still retains his curiosity as to whether they are biologically male or female. Eventually Peter discovers the truth though we do not; the whole point is that it does not and should not matter. Peter learns to love Blue for what they are and the clear message is that we shouldn’t be concerned with societal constructs either.
Peter is shown to us as a traditional male character. Dressed in blue (significant?) overalls he carries out mechanical duties on a collection of vintage cars throughout his monologue. Blue is less rigidly presented as we see them in various locations in their converted warehouse apartment in Limehouse and learn something about their non-conformist younger years. Both Tom Everatt and Beata Taczalska have the measure of their characters and give committed and spirited performances ably directed by the writer himself and although there is the occasional video hiccough these do not detract from the overall effectiveness of the pieces. The weakest aspect for me is that neither story particularly enhanced the other in that one iteration more or less repeats what happens in the second. Although we get to find out a little more about the respective speaker of each monologue, having seen all the events described from one point of view, they are then replayed through another lens which actually adds little more to the mix. I guess that’s why probably only one point of view was chosen to play in the live version. That said, the pieces are an interesting experiment in wringing value from the monologue form and I’ll be interested to see where the second pairing takes me tomorrow.
A Strange Romance and Inside Blue are available on the Golden Age Theatre website – click here – and also via Scenesaver – click here
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