"Sinful pleasure in perfect monologues"
by Owen Kingston for remotegoat on 26/05/16

Having sat for several minutes amongst the audience of the Old Red Lion waiting for Monorogue to begin, and having relaxed and chatted amiably while a robed-and-wigged judge sits patiently and demurely on stage, any sense of amiable comfort is shattered when said judge suddenly explodes in a torrent of Cockney rage, ordering us all to 'SHUT UP!'. We do. Monorogue has begun.

Some might argue that Monorogue is simply a glorified actors showcase. The format certainly suggests that - a succession of monologues all tenuously linked by a common theme - an hour's worth of actors parading before you one by one, each doing their best audition speeches. Perhaps somewhere, right at the beginning, there was an element of this in the design - a way for actors to showcase the best of their talents on a public stage - something to invite potential agents to. But thankfully for all of us, Monorogue has managed to become so much more.

For a start, the theme (seven deadly sins) is strong and the performances truly reflect it - perhaps partly because the speeches have largely been written by the performers themselves for this particular show. They build upon each other, and together prove to be more than the sum of their parts. The framing device of a courtroom also helps to tie the performances together into a cohesive whole, and gives a sense of over-arching narrative thus preventing the evening from feeling fragmentary. The addition of the cockney-wideboy judge conducting the proceedings, so ably played by John Jesper, is a touch of genius - even if this remarkable character does overshadow some of the other performances from time to time, the fascinating concept of the common-law judge keeps us entertained and engaged in equal measure. It is also refreshing to be given the opportunity to pass judgement on the characters presented to us. As the 'jury' of this kangaroo court, there is a certain degree of pleasure to be had in considering whether each 'defendant' is innocent or guilty, and a delightful sense of X-Factor-style schadenfreude when one of them is sent down.

The monologues themselves are also consistently strong with some stand-out performances amongst them. Danny Stone's 'Oi Mate' supplies a beautifully observed characterisation of a wrathful working class Londoner, whilst Jessica Peterson's story of life after breast surgery is truly touching. Geraldine Brennan gives us a wonderfully familiar lady of leisure, whilst Angela Harvey's sinister insight into the unexpected sexual desires of a middle-aged, middle-class, otherwise very familiar lady is positively chilling.

As may be expected of a one-night-only event, there are flaws and glitches - perhaps inevitably so. But the fun nature of the format elicits a generous spirit in the audience, and none of the flaws are catastrophic. Salon Collective have found a great format for an enjoyable night out which will hopefully continue to showcase the excellent work of their writers and actors for a long time to come.

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