Heretic Voices review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘a varied and compelling trio’
Whatever the ethics and effects of new writing competitions are, that they throw up intriguing, exciting plays is undeniable. Here are three: a trio of monologues, chosen by Michael Billington, Lolita Chakrabarti, Monica Dolan and Mel Kenyon from a whopping 1,136 entries.
The first – Annie Fox’s Woman Caught Unaware – stealthily tackles how society recoils from the ageing female body. Staged as a lecture, and delivered consummately by Amanda Boxer (somewhere between Mary Beard and Joanna Lumley), it features a university don reacting to a naked photo being shared and scorned online. Jessica Edwards’ simple staging is drily funny and asks important questions with elegance, but it’s let down by a needlessly melodramatic denouement. Less, here, would be more.
Sonya Hale’s Dean McBride, with its time-hopping story of a Croydon lad coping with first love, the absence of his mother, and the slow demise of his father, all at the same time, is altogether brasher. Hale finds energetic rhythm in effervescent South London slang, but Roy Alexander Weise’s production miscasts Ted Reilly. The writing has authenticity, but Reilly’s performance doesn’t.
Save the best for last. Tatty Hennessy’s A Hundred Words for Snow follows a teenage girl’s arctic adventure to scatter her father’s ashes at the North Pole. It’s warm, witty, and like its central character, heavily layered. Featuring a performance of real humour and humility from Lauren Samuels, and one moment of sheer theatrical magic from director Max Gill towards the end, it deserves a future life.