Nina, an achingly cool yet awkward young Londoner, wasn’t expecting to meet Gabriel at a BBQ in Tooting, but she does. Their burgeoning relationship seems perfect. Descriptions of dates, parties, meeting each others’ families and moving in together feel natural and healthy, until things start to deteriorate. Moments that were previously joyful become tense, and physical affection is now forceful. As much as this is a monologue about falling in love, it’s also a piece about its deterioration into abuse and finding a way out.
As part of Clean Break’s 40th anniversary celebrations, this outdoor, in-person production showcases some of the work the company created over the past year. The collection of short monologues created by Clean Break members and associate artists all share stories of loss, isolation and loneliness, which are further contextualised by lived experiences of incarceration. The character-driven pieces are remarkable examples of human resilience in the face of systemic oppression and a criminal justice system that is punitive and cruel.
Making a show political without feeling like a rant is a tough nut to crack; too much seriousness and you’re the news, not enough and you look misguided. The company Papergang Theatre make it look easy. They’ve incorporated just about every performance medium: dance poetry, lecture, video. This is proof that less is not always more.
Jack is hurtling forwards, desperately striving to fix mistakes from their childhood, arguments with their girlfriend, and now climate change. This movement needs them, and they need an excuse to keep moving. We meet Jack in the middle of the London Rebellion, the 10 days of peaceful civil disobedience organised by Extinction Rebellion in April last year. They jump onto their bicycle late at night and begin to hurtle forward, away from the scrutiny they’re under at home.
Tyler had been living a life familiar to many new Londoners – frustratedly waiting tables whilst hoping for excitement and success that would make his mum proud. Then, a night out in Soho inspired him to give up one kind of service for another, and he’s now loving his work as an escort. The men, the money and the sex make an equation that’s irresistible and thrilling, but not without risk.
Jess’s has a comfortable life. The 29-year-old has a good job, a partner, a home (that she rents, of course – she’s not that lucky) and her mum lives nearby. She keeps busy with nights out, mate’s hen dos and watching Love Island curled up on the couch with her boyfriend Taj and a pack of Hobnobs. She’s happy.
Clare Pointing’s With Child isn’t actually about pregnancy. Facing a show that’s billed as six ‘talking heads’ style monologues delivered by six pregnant characters feels dauntingly alienating when you only know or care a little about trimesters or nursing plans. But thankfully, none of these themes are focused too heavily upon in Pointing’s perceptive, nuanced one woman show.
Worth A Flutter written by Michael Head and directed by Jonathan Carr is a simple story of love and its complications that sadly misses the mark. Set in a greasy spoon in Southwark, we see a week in the life of two men and how their affections for one woman changed them forever. While the energy and commitment from all the actors is high, the piece lacks the depth it is trying to convey. Instead, it spends most of its time on odd, offensive and tasteless humour.
Assessing new writing nights is a tricky business. A critical line must be drawn early on between the evening’s overall creative gesture and the quality of individual submissions. Better to do this than parrot the worn-out phrase: “a mixed bag”.