Watching a damaged and wounded Iraq-veteran climb into a coffin and lay on top of a corpse in an act of – shall we say – tenderness is guaranteed to keep you focused.
That shocking move came at the end of the first of Aston Productions’s excellent series of monologues, Eight by Ella Hickson at La Bodega – it transfers to Le Parisien from Thursday.
The five portrayals shared common themes despite a wide diversity of character – loss and buffeting affects everyone no matter where you are on the social ladder. These characters, though, are affected in ways which previous generations might not have had to endure.
Lewis Richardson plays the hero soldier of the first monologue who turns out to be anything but. This was a dynamic performance using movement and the limited space to telling effect. His description of being wounded and mutilated in Iraq is spellbinding, but it’s what happens after, when that shock leads him to become a mortician and a depraved one at that, which is so compelling. A previous warrior might not have survived, or been repaired.
He loses part of his body and his thinking becomes warped and obsessed with flesh – so much so that he also loses his life compass.
Claire Wyatt’s hard-pressed single mum is a lesson in how to let your fantasy ruin your reality. She sits amid the cheapest of paper Christmas decorations ruing the coming festival with no money and a child to feed and care for. Worse, once she had the lightest of brushes with luxury and dreamed that it could and would come her way one day. So now her days are taken up with the drudge of reality made even more disappointing by this dream that won’t go away.
Gregory A.Smith is an American banker, one of the now discredited Masters Of the Universe, who has it all – including a life map already drawn for him by his father. Then chance comes along and puts him on the 7/7 bus bombed in Tavistock Square. He’s believed dead and dives off into three years of hedonism and escape from his destiny. But can he really ever escape? No, he’s as trapped in his path as the single mum.
Jo Southwell, in addition to producing these monologues, also gives us Millie, the Sloane hooker who’s lost her place and role. There was a time when her class and the people she served counted, but then they were found out to be privileged but talentless. So now she doesn’t have influence or respect. She and all her clients were capsized never to recover on Black Wednesday in 1992. That was the day when the old financial world of public school and gentry went for good because it was found to be incompetent.