Writer and director Nick Myles weaves elements of his own life into the four stories presented in Mistaken, sharing with us snapshots of four recognisably human lives. Hidden Bell Productions presents a quartet of monologues performed by William McGeough. Myles has shown each of these monologues individually over the last four years, though they were brought together as Mistaken in 2014. The performance rejects clichés of LGBT Fringe theatre, weaving themes of male friendship, consent and, arching over each of the monologues, a need to outdistance the past and advance.
Myles has given the monologues which form Mistaken distinct tones and McGeough manages to separate them all reasonably well, though he does fall into particular patterns of speech and gesture with the characters often feeling to be on the surface rather than embodied. Nevertheless, he’s a welcoming and sincere performer who shares each monologue with the audience as though we’re in conversation. There’s Friends Like Steve which has McGeough as a football fanatic, working through his changing relationship with his best friend. In Mud: The Urban Adventures of a Country Boy, McGeough is a nervous Yorkshireman leaving the memory of his lover for a new life in London. Details is perhaps the most accomplished monologue; McGeough pleads his case following a date which has gone wrong. These first three monologues are the strongest in writing and acting, and the production could have easily been performed with these alone. The Angel of Tomorrow is a more confused monologue which sees McGeough as a female motivational speaker – the use of powerpoint presentation here doesn’t really work and his characterisation is thin compared to his earlier performances.
The individual sections of Mistaken are curious and entertaining, though little is done to connect them. Rather than remaining onstage during the transition between characters, director Myles has taken the decision for remarks about the characters to be played over the speakers, removing the suspense that closes the monologues and dulling the energy. Had McGeough remained onstage throughout, I have no doubts that Mistaken would feel far more cohesive, the themes and overlaps between sections spilling into one another. It’s a moving production in sections, but it’s too inconsistent to feel finished.
Mistaken contains engaging work which takes a unique look at contemporary LGBT issues. Individually, each monologue is a great piece of theatre, though care needs to be taken to ensure the production as a whole has greater coherence.
Mistaken: A Quartet of Plays for One Actor is playing at C Nova (Venue 145) from 10-17 and 19-31 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.