MaD: Monologues & Duologues

FRANCESCA HILL found this selection of new material partly surreal, partly underwhelming.

ADC theatre culture duologue monologue new writing Write On

ADC Theatre, 7pm, Sun 12th, 19th & 26th May, 2nd & 9th June, £6/5

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I have seen many bizarre things come to pass in the ADC bar. This evening definitely appears amongst the most surreal, and that’s despite the fact that my plus one and I were the only students in attendance; almost everyone else was over sixty-five.

Until you have seen a misogynist village mayor with a West Country accent and a porn addiction reveal himself to be Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, and his feminist wife Rosie start ranting about how skinny elves have become the standard for Middle Earth beauty, you have not known surreal. (Girl hobbits have apparently started shaving their feet, or even waxing, leaving just a narrow strip down the middle: it’s just not natural.) And that was just one play of six; Feminist Habits by Peter Balderstone.

MaD: Monologues & Duologues showcases some new writing by Write On, a Cambridge script-writing forum over a series of five Sunday evening sessions. Some of its members are clearly talented; some less clearly so.

The format is certainly different; audiences pay normal ADC ticket prices but the short plays performed are done script-in-hand, and at the interval, writers, directors and actors are brought on stage to interact with the audience and receive their feedback. Some took it better than others; one director genuinely tried to respond to criticism aimed at a writer’s totally implausible ending by suggesting that with short plays endings hardly matter and shouldn’t be included in any evaluation. I was too stunned to point out that the final two minutes is a fairly large proportion of a twelve minute play.

You could also tell that the majority of Write On members were bus pass owners. Of six plays, one was about euthanasia; one about the relationship between an elderly man and his carer; one about a man coming to terms with the death of an old friend; and one about the childlike nature of a senile old lady. If I was looking for a feel-good night out, I would not have found it.

That’s not to say there weren’t highlights. The sole monologue of the evening, Angel Services, showed a man’s struggle with loss without the idealised rose-tinting we often see in films. Grieving people do not suddenly become better people, and the play’s poetic prose (Dave Pescod) was performed beautifully by Robert Jezek with all the awkwardness and selfishness which it deserved.

If I came away with anything, it was further confirmation that the ability to write well is even rarer than the ability to act well. A few plays contained great performances despite the limited rehearsal period and the use of scripts, but good concepts failed to realise their true potential due to writing that often jarred or lacked sufficient nuance. Yes, these were works in progress, but of the six plays shown tonight only three were even vaguely worth watching; I would imagine the same is true of the series as a whole.