Review: Lily Bevan Character Monologues, The Gift Horse at The Horse and Stables (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Encapsulated within in Nick Hern Books’ recent publishing of Lily Bevan’s blistering new play Zoo, are her Twelve Comedy Monologues (and one for luck), a rib-tickling collective of very human, expertly written comedy, character monologues for women, some of which featured in the BBC Radio 4 series, Talking to Strangers (co-written with Sally Phillips). Performed here by Bevan herself, Anne Odeke, Pandora Colin, Hedydd Dylan and Charity Wakefield, the twelve-ish monologues are delivered vibrantly by this cast of 5 with extraordinary prowess and comedic supremacy.

The monologues include: an overzealous guest dressed as an ass at a Nativity-themed fancy dress party, a pirate enthusiast vying for a loan to make her pirate cafe dreams come true, a strident pupil touring parents around her school and unknowingly over-sharing her observations as she goes, a tattooist who can’t quite seem to grasp scale or the logistics of helicopters, a Tudor-enthusiast determined to give newly weds the most authentic feast at their reception whether legal or not, a paranoid walker afraid of a swan who is ‘acting suspiciously’, a drunk women in the bathroom of an opera house who, after seeing Carmen is deliberating whether to tell her boyfriend she has cheated, a Hampton Court Palace shop assistant unwittingly thrust into the role of Catherine of Aragon as everyone else has Norovirus, a nervous women who cannot seem to stop asking questions during a waxing session, a Bridesmaid staging a coup on the Best Man’s speech due to his prior examples of misogyny, a blogging allotment owner berating her neighbour’s use of untreated manure, a nervous and extremely rambled voicemail following up from a steamy sex session and more.

Part of the allure of this selection of misfits and their stories is the absurdly relatable nature of their predicaments. Each monologue proving to be wildly variegated, yet distinctly rich with just the right dose of comedy and character. Demonstrating how masterful at her craft Lily Bevan is. Grouping these women and championing their ‘longing and loss and sadness’. Bevan intuitively touches on themes such as passion, dreams, desire, divorce, innocence, allure, the female experience and expectations, love and much more. Her dry-wit and sharp humour taking the audience on a joyful and hilarious rollercoaster, pinned together by recurring scenes, (i.e Nativity), yet they indefinitely will work as stand-alone pieces and we can see actor’s in training  picking these up in the future. They are just that good, and are cleverly often addressed to a silent character, providing even more hilarity. Whilst the comedic intelligence of the 5 tasked with delivering these pieces is perfection, each putting their own stamp on their chosen monologues, conveying and embodying the vastitude of the characters and enthusiastically staging and physicalising their situations, despite the ephemeral nature of the performance. Hamish MacDougall’s direction is at play here, the monologues vibrantly lifting from the pages.

Lily Bevan’s Character Monologues are back on Sunday 9th February, click here to book now. Click here to buy a copy of Zoo, which includes the monologues and click here to book tickets for Zoo at Vault Festival.

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