She Can’t Half Talk

August 23, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★☆☆☆    Unconvincing lives

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49): Sat 17– Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

She Can’t Half Talk, EUTC’s Fringe production at the Bedlam, is a varied set of stories that contains much of promise but fails to convince as a coherent whole.

Apparently drawing inspiration from Ella Hickson’s Eight, as revived by EUTC at last year’s Fringe, writer-director Sally MacAlister presents a series of six monologues,. Three are performed each day after a short introduction featuring all six performers.

Half the cast of She Can’t Half Talk. Pic: EUTC

The rationale behind only featuring half of the content is not clear – there is not, for example, any kind of vote on who the audience will see, which gave the aforementioned Eight has an element of pot luck about it for the audience.

Here, there is a promise that if you come again tomorrow you will get the rest of it. Which could be seen as a somewhat sneaky way of going about things, and difficult for most already-booked-up Fringe audiences to accommodate.

So there is no way of assessing the merits of Hannah Churchill (the Cougar), Michael Zwiauer (the Actor) and Aine Higgins (the Victim), who did not appear on this occasion after the opening – although Zwiauer does make a brief but telling contribution to one of the other scenes.

There is nothing wrong with any of the other monologues – they are thoughtfully structured, carefully staged and well enough performed – but there is nothing that really jumps out.

initially intriguing

Mica Anderson’s depiction of a foetus is initially intriguing, but is the sketchiest of the three. There are problems with the logic; all of the monologues feature a tension concerning how aware of their audience the character is, but here there is an added lack of clarity about the level of awareness and knowledgeability of the foetus. Anderson, furthermore, has apparently been encouraged to talk in an excitable gabble that is endearing but slightly one-note. Clearly an engaging performer, Anderson needs more compelling material.

The show promises explorations of ‘the conformities of gender and sexuality in modern-day society’. Strange, then, that the section featuring Angus Bhattacharya’s drag queen seems so dated. Its portrayal of a man who realises he has almost sleepwalked into a heterosexual marriage and so secretly becomes a drag performer is peculiar on many levels, and features a central character who is not particularly sympathetic.

As in all of the monologues, political concerns are raised but dealt with a superficial way, as if there was a reluctance to make the pieces too issue-driven. The result, however, is to make the issues less than integrated with the characters, who are correspondingly less layered and less interesting. Bhattacharya’s performance is commanding and subtle, but the monologue fails to go anywhere interesting.

a compelling air

The other segment here – Kirsten Millar as someone who performs on a webcam for lonely men – is by far the most successful. There is a command of tone and character that far exceeds the other pieces, and a personality is created who is both rounded and convincing. Millar’s well-judged comic presence adds greatly to this. The story that unfolds is a shade formulaic, but there is a compelling air to this monologue that demonstrates MacAlister’s potential using language and comic situations.

The failings of the rest of it can easily be put down to an understandable wish to showcase range and versatility. Unfortunately, it ends up spread too thinly, and it would be better to find one situation that works and explore it in greater detail.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Bedlam Theatre, 11b BristoPlace, EH1 1EZ (Venue 49)
Saturday 17–Sunday 25August 2019
Daily at 2.00 pm
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/she-can-t-half-talk

Bedlam Fringe website: https://bedlamfringe.co.uk/
Facebook: bedlamtheatre.ed

ENDS

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