Time for what has recently become my weekly double dose of Golden Age Theatre monologues. I’m over halfway through them now and there are some definite patterns starting to emerge as Ian Dixon Potter’s gallery of characters parade their prejudices and often morally dubious opinions before us. He’s been particularly adept at capturing the “little Englander” mentality which he clearly sees as leading to Brexit and which has been exacerbated by the sort of exceptionalism in which an island nation seems almost obliged to luxuriate. This, as he suggests, has been stoked by the pandemic (a topic visited previously in Denial) and it is this latter event which informs the latest pair of pieces I headed for.
Love In The Time Of Corona concerns Jake, a young man faced with severely curtailing his amorous activities during lockdowns and who is faced with the prospect of just his own company for months on end. This is anathema to his usual love ‘em and leave ‘em approach, although it quickly becomes clear that love has very little to do with anything and that his view of women is more to do with notches on a bedpost than any fellow feeling. An inveterate user of dating apps, even when lockdowns mean they can’t lead to anything, he still feels the urge to swipe left or right on a daily basis which is how he virtually meets Lauren. Subsequently they transfer their online relationship to Zoom and gradually, under her patient tutelage, Jake begins to change his views/attitudes. Despite himself he starts to enter into a personal if distanced relationship which, by the end of the piece, sees him starting to transform.
As I’ve come to see with Dixon Potter’s work, Jake is yet another character with rather repellent views who sees nothing wrong about what he is telling us. He’s rather a stereotype (and that’s no disrespect to the writer – he needs to be) who uses far too many clichés both verbal and gestural to the point where they become rather cringeworthy. Ivan Comisso plays him with a ready smile and a certainty about his own behaviour which gradually gives way to a more nuanced hesitancy and in the space of half an hour manages to take him from repellent childish misogynist to budding considerate adult – that Lauren must be really something.
The New Normal also references the pandemic in its title and as one of the contributory factors to why life is like it is in 2024 which is where we find ourselves in this piece. Hadrian’s Wall is being reconstructed to keep the now separate nations of England and Scotland apart, while there’s another wall going up between Northern Ireland and Eire which, apparently the latter are paying for. Boris has been demoted to Chancellor and is fumbling along ruining the economy, Jacob Rees Mogg has succeeded him as PM – OMG! And if you think that’s bad Sir Nigel Farrage has taken over as Foreign Secretary and under his watch even stricter rules have been introduced for those “foreigners”. Central character Dorothy is pretty sure that this change is for the better although she regrets the difficulty it causes her in finding a carer following a stroke. Eventually alien Heidi (it makes Dorothy think of snow capped mountains) takes on the task. This is illegal but, of course, the action exposes Dorothy’s deep seated hypocrisy and petty mindedness because it’s only the “foreigners” she doesn’t know who are the problem. The neighbours get suspicious, so she tells them that Heidi is her son Ralph’s girlfriend but the system she supported with her vote starts to close in on her.
There’s a horribly enjoyable performance in this monologue from Kate Carthy as Dorothy. With her flat vowels, sneering tone and wan looking countenance, it’s not too long before the character is firmly established as yet another in Dixon Potter’s long line of English malcontents. Although Carthy takes the character on bit of a journey it is rather a less wholehearted one than in the previous piece, it being borne almost entirely out of expediency. We are left in no doubt that, if it suits, Dorothy will quickly revert to type.
This is another pair of monologues which are skilfully written and delivered, though in both instances there is some sub plotting which doesn’t really add much – Jake’s relationship with his best friend is a bit of a red herring, for instance. And they both contribute to the to the main thrust of this series about people who confess their unrecognised inadequacies to us through their thoughts, speech and actions; as the Bible has it “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee”.