"Delightfully ambitious trio of monologues"
by Edwin Reis for remotegoat on 19/02/15

Observing a triumvirate of monologues from depressed, insecure, suicidal men may not sound like the most appealing way to spend your evening, but Velvet Trumpet manage to inject far more Joy into this production than their advertising would have you believe.

The three pieces are written by Thomas Jones, who also performs, and Nikolai Ribnikov, who directs. All three are centred around men who, for one reason or another, attempt to cling to normality whilst a deeper, darker issue gnaws at them from within. The script is laden with one-liners and farcical elements, in fact so much so that this is really an outright comedy with the occasional tragic motif. Fantastic performances from all three actors keep the show flowing nicely, and help paper over certain flaws in the narrative.

When seen from a comedic angle, the production can, naturally, be given more licence to descend into chaos, although the dramatic elements end up suffering from a lack of plausibility. In the first offering, ‘Toast’, our empathy for the gawky Michael (Jon Cottrell) is diminished as the absurdity of the situation is revealed. Ditto in ‘Thames Cop’, where Thomas Jones’ Roger displays behaviour in a primary school that would see him stripped of his badges regardless of any on-the-job boating orgies.

By far the most believable piece is the final one, ‘All Change, All Change’, the endearing story of “mole man” Phil, a tube driver, ably played by Simon Grujich. As Phil battles with thoughts of suicide, Grujich brings a relatable haplessness to the role, and his comedic self-deprecation and obsession for statistics contrasts beautifully with his subtextual angst, cleverly exposed as he barks station announcements through a megaphone.

These pieces are fun, clever and original, but in the first two in particular, Jones and Ribnikov need to decide what the objective is. Currently, the text hangs awkwardly between all-out surrealist farce and subtle, blackly comedic social commentary. Often, touching moments are built up to a point of emotional pay-off, and then ruthlessly shattered with a crass punch line. Nevertheless, this is a thoroughly enjoyable production, exquisitely played, and Velvet Trumpet certainly have a bright future ahead.

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