The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That much is true for Crafted By Fools’ and Unrealistically Loud’s This Be The Verse. The collection of monologues, directed by Sibylla Archdale Kalid, examines the relationship between parents and their children. As entertaining as each piece is on its own, showcasing three individual stories one after another allows us to truly immerse ourselves in the topic that is explored.
Andrew (Colm Gleeson), an Irish lyricist staying at a Premier Inn with his girlfriend Lucy, is the protagonist of Will Bishop’s Anadiplosis. It’s late at night and he has decided to pen a letter to his estranged father that explores their connection and allows him to figure out how he got to where he is today. We are the recipients of that letter – or so it feels. Addressed to the audience, Andrew tests his family’s inside-jokes and chuckle-worthy renditions on us. With sincerity for his character, Gleeson explores Andrew’s appreciation for his family, his overwhelming concerns, dismay, and lastly, a call for help. Constantly looking for laughter and acknowledgement from the audience, his performance sways between engaging and affronting. Driven by time jumps in which the lights dim, and we are allowed a moment to check-in, Gleeson’s character becomes more and more frazzled and helpless as the night proceeds and the letter gets longer and longer.
Canary’s Charlie (Georgina Duncan) finds herself in a similar situation in olm Gleeson’s short play. She is also in her head about her relationship with her parents – or more specifically, her estranged mother who has been diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. She tells us that she, entirely unintentionally, keeps seeking out the company of palm readers, fortune tellers, tarot card enthusiasts and zodiac sign analysts who have a fair share to say about her future.
Duncan gives Charlie a warmhearted note of helplessness which she disguises as happy smiles and a childlike fascination for the world around her. Waiting for either a phone call with bad news – or her recently acquired canary bird to start singing – Charlie experiences a similar uneasiness as Andrew in the previous story. Marked by the same sarcasm, and contradictory jokiness embedded in her performance, Anadiplosis’ Andrew, and Canary’s Charlie could almost be siblings. Up until the point, when Duncan lets down her guard and explores what’s beneath the ticks and restless pacing that are so fitting for her character.
Just Be Good, written by Billie Collins, stands out as an almost uplifting piece. Following two short plays telling us that we are the result of our parents’ failures, it is refreshing to see the story played out from the other side.
Eddie’s dad Thomas has decided to leave a legacy for his son. We join him as he sets up a tripod to film himself on the day of his son’s birth. We rejoin him on several of those birthdays until his son eventually turns 18 and it is time to share the videos.
We get to experience all that can go wrong in parenting first hand, and find out how the estrangement between parents and their children can come about. However, as disheartening as the message of the last play is, Bishop’s energetic performance of a “cool rock n’ roll dad” is contagious and almost happy.
Although exploring a solemn and sad topic, we leave This Be The Verse not entirely discouraged. Thanks to its simplistic staging, minimal scene changes and three-dimensional characters, it is easy to accept that This Be The Verse’s three stories are just a part of life that we need to accept. After all, as Bishop put it, “the world is only 50% a let down”.
It runs until 26 March.
Review: Shirley Both