A man goes on a solo holiday after a difficult breakup. A woman fights through day-to-day life to find a job. These two little, globally insignificant stories are monumentally spotlighted in Andrew Maddock’s The We Plays with potent effect. The working class heroes of his monologues, Me and Pru, each have a narrative constructed of some rather exquisite contemporary verse. Poetic and emotionally bare, both stories plumb the depths of grief and despair but inspire tenacity and hope.
John Seaward is a vibrant, fragile Me in “Cyprus Sunsets”. The story of a young man returning to the island that shaped his adult life is delicate, moving and raw. It was there that he came of age and later met the woman who recently broke his heart. In his hotel room, Me battles stereotypical British holidaymakers, terrible dance music and the demons that still fester in the inner corners of his heart. As he relives his relationship and the moment that tore them apart, he deteriorates rather than improves but finds an unlikely saviour.
Me is a wonderfully rich and detailed character, and Seaward totally embraces his vulnerability. This makes Maddock’s storytelling all the more riveting and combats the usual drawbacks of a monologue solo performance. There are enough motifs and refrains to provide a structure, but not so many that the text is stifled. The wide vocabulary and character’s emotional life make this first piece the stronger of the two, but the second still resonates.
“Irn Pru” takes us to Glasgow, where ball busting goddess Pru is single, unemployed and desperate. The fearless heroine is also a verse speaker, and the rhythm is equally at home amidst her passion and rage. This everywoman fights gentrification, wanky potential employers and daily prejudice against her upbringing and education. The stakes get higher the longer she is unemployed and as acquires someone dependent on her, but under the boiling rage there is a young woman who is desperate to do the right thing.
Jennifer O’Neill is the ferocious Pru heading to a job interview in a Viking helmet. She’s rough but with a heart of gold, and O’Neill shapes a larger-than-life character that spills her soul onto the rowdy Upper Street stretching out below the theatre. She rallies support to the down-trodden and celebrates the mentality that never gives up.
There is little that needs improving in The We Plays, if anything at all. These everyday people that Maddock’s makes so real and compelling in his multi-layered writing evoking poets of yore could each easily fill a play of their own, but set together in this format emphasises the leading roles we have the potential to play in our own lives, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.
The We Plays runs through 15 October.
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