|"Intimate and Engaging New Writing"|
by Elizabeth Eyre for remotegoat on 03/08/11
Wearing orange high-heels and a bandit mask Chloe Massey strides through the audience assembled in the Frameless Gallery and begins the first monologue, ChatRoulette. For the uninitiated, ChatRoulette is a website where a user chats to another via webcam, but can move on to someone new at the click of a button. Chloe's character confronts each chatter wearing the mask and gives them a choice: they can see her body or her face. This is followed by a frenetic encounter with Rosie, performed by Aimee Levey who describes, in beautiful, bubbly detail her thoughts and feelings when she meets a boy in a club.
This is the beginning of SCENTED, a series of seven new monologues written by female playwrights for female actors. Darkbloom Theatre guide the audience around Newertown's exhibition Added Weight, which features the work of international female photographers. The promenade style of the performance means it is not necessarily the case that the audience sit down, but the running time is under 60 minutes and as long as you are prepared for this the delightful venue adds hugely to the experience. The size of the gallery means the audience must be small resulting in an intimate relationship with performers who often stand so close you can see the whites of their eyes. The actors use this to their advantage locking eyes with each person - the barrier between audience and actor is at its thinnest and the effect is electric, particularly given the fantastically contrasting energies of these two actors.
Aimee Levey has a frenetic, infectious quality that lends itself well to describing the peculiarities of the vibrant worlds her characters inhabit. Whether she is going into delicious detail over the boy's trousers, which belong on a golf course in Rosie or the method by which she tricks her disabled father into thinking he is eating Waitrose marmalade every day rather than Tesco's in Marmalade, she is completely convincing and entirely engaging. Chloe Massey has a stiller energy, which pulls you in, a touching wryness, and natural sincerity whether she is riffing on Hendrix's loneliness in Jimi or reliving the gruesome death of a monkey in Dead Things.
I found Chloe Massey's ChatRoulette and Emily Jenkins's Marmalade the most striking monologues. ChatRoulette is a brilliant idea; the kind you instantly wish you'd thought of - a simple way of asking a complicated question about what intimacy really is. Marmalade is a domestic roller coaster with a chilling end, which had me gripped throughout. Taxi in, which a passenger who claims to be an escort offers to pay with her services I found the least convincing, perhaps not helped by the fact that it relies on waiting for responses from the unseen taxi driver.
But that is a minor criticism, as a whole SCENTED is as impressive as it is innovative and it was a pleasure to watch such exciting new writing performed by two extraordinarily talented young actors.
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