The Salon: Collective are a grassroots group of artists that offer classes, workshops and produce work. United by American practitioner Sanford Meisner’s post-Stanislavskian technique, they have amassed a network of actors, teachers, directors and writers dedicated to supporting each other’s creative development. Monorogue is one of their latest endeavours, an evening of new writing linked by a prominent central theme. This month’s is Seven Deadly Sins, chaired by a judge and voted ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ by the audience jury. It’s a simple, effective format that allows actors to showcase characterisation skills and develop their writing, with a clear through line that makes it feel like more of a production than a showcase. Potential for variation in style and tone make this new writing night worth catching again.
John Jesper has created Judge Frank Goody, an east London geezer who blagged his way to the top of the courts. Whether or not it’s intentional, the character is a powerful comment on contemporary judicial corruption as he orders a trio of prostitutes between acts, drinks and falls asleep. He is supported in court by religious fundamentalist PD Callie Carter (written and performed by Rachel Stoneley) who killed her husband for committing sins against God and marriage. These two characters provide much needed levity in between more serious characters, though some of the people we encounter are more amusingly bizarre than encountered in real life.
Of the seven sinners on trial, the most interesting stories belong to Angela Harvey’s Mel, a business woman obsessed with the homeless man who camps out near her work, and the reverend who tirelessly fundraisers not for her church, but for local poor people. Helen Rose-Hampton’s character is easily forgiven by the audience even though she lost her job. These two feel like they could be central characters of bigger stories. The others are mostly fine, but only one of the seven didn’t work particularly well. Wrath is embodied by a Sun reader cracking formulaic jokes akin to a stand-up set culminating in a display of aggression that isn’t worthy of the sinful qualification.
The full theatre has a strong moral compass but one that is easily swayed by the grotesque. Almost unanimously condemning Edmund (Kim Hardy) for being in a consensual feeder relationship with Tammy and making a living through amateur porn, they then decide the young wife disappointed with her post-mastectomy boob job is free of pride. Neither is breaking any law, but the socially taboo is condemned in this arena. It makes for a social experiment that’s as interesting as it is a piece of theatre.
This new writing showcase and scratch night is certainly a unique one in its polish and format. Though each one so far has had a distinct theme and some will be more effective than others, it makes for a fun, interactive night out and a great showcase of emerging talent.
Monorogue: Seven Deadly Sins ran for 1 night only.
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