Review: Roaring Voices(part1): Hotbed Festival – The Junction, Cambridge

As part of Menagerie’s Hotbed Festival, eight authors were invited to create eight new monologues especially for the festival. The brief was open but with a suggestion of a ‘looking back and looking forward’ theme. The monologues are presented in two batches during the festival.

Mind Detox
Writer: Esther Shanson
Performer: Laura Pyper
Director: Patrick Morris

Desperate to overcome her anxiety issues, Nicola sees a ‘mind detox’ therapist who has ‘had a lot of success with people sweating on You Tube’. What Nicola discovers though is that her perceived issues may actually be exacerbated by her therapist. Esther Shanson’s script combines both humour and pathos that pokes fun at the self-help movement but also shows that will power can overcome many issues. Laura Pyper’s performance captures the insecurity of Nicola but also balances this with a slow realisation of her own strengths. There is perhaps scope to explore the absurdity of so called ‘experts’ who play on fears in more depth but it’s an entertaining and engaging ten minutes.

The Apologist
Writer: Craig Baxter
Performer: Pieter Lawman
Director: Paul Bourne

Behind the PR spin, the expression of regret and the public penance, do we really believe public figures when they are wheeled out in front of the cameras to atone for some transgression. When a banker is involved in a fatal car crash his words on the surface seem authentic but is it all just image? Craig Baxter’s The Apologist follows the banker over three years. Immediately after the crash, a year later meeting the parents of his victim and a further year on in counselling. It is a well observed reflection on the current obsession with public image but also the deeper, perhaps more subtle personal impact. While the conversion from arrogant exploiter to apparent remorse is not entirely convincing it is a timely look at the requirement of a media savvy community to have a public display of remorse, gripping portrayed by Pieter Lawman.

Kitchen Sink
Writer: Tamsin Astbury
Performer: Caroline Rippin
Director: Mhari Gallagher

Katie faces an inner conflict – the need to be the perfect mother, wife, Conservative Counsellor and also live up to her heritage all take a toll. As she struggles to come to terms with what it means to be an independent woman she realises that the challenges her Suffragette Grandmother faced are still relevant today. Tasmin Astbury weaves multiple threads in a well-crafted piece that mixes both humour and real dark pathos into a totally believable character (brought beautifully to life by Caroline Rippin). Political ideals, the challenges of motherhood and a loveless marriage all painted with vivid imagery in a piece that reveals its plot twists layer by layer.

Ascension
Writer: Danusia Iwaszko
Performer: Richard Bremmer
Director: Patrick Morris

On Primrose Hill, Henry Denton carries out his daily task – pushing a boulder up the hill only to see it roll again to the bottom. Life for Henry is certainly an uphill struggle. He’s lost his job, his wife and his son want’s nothing to do with him. All Henry has is his rock, the passing dog walkers and jeering youths and the drivers of the passing Number 31 bus. Danusia Iwaszko’s study of loneliness and determination is both moving and at the same time oddly inspiring. Richard Bremmer’s Henry is a masterclass in observation, full of subtle detail. Iwaszko’s poignant script resonates with a clear understanding of the human spirit and the challenges that we all have to overcome in life.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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