I am not a big fan of so-called ‘monologue-shows’ – storytelling is getting more and more popular these days, even outside the black box, but I often find it hard to see past a character’s rant about a past event and listen to the story being told. I like seeing things unfold in the moment, how two characters can take each other by surprise, not knowing what will happen next.
Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down tells the story of three very different women from a small town, linked by a tragic past event and all affected by the tyranny of one man. We get to know the pain and joy of these three different women through intertwining and overlapping monologues.
There is an innocence to the voices of the three as they share their memories and relive the tragic events that have marked them throughout their lives. Playwright Richard Cameron has an eye for detail and his voice drives the play. The actors do him justice at times – Laura Allen’s Jodie has a catchy innocence about her, Bernice Pike has moments of great despair as the god-fearing Lynette, and Kelly McAuley is very real and loveable as Ruby. Unfortunately there are also times when the actresses’s drama school training is their Achilles heel. At moments the technique is spot on, but it is missing some guts and soul – it feels slightly detached and more like a rant.
I believe in variety. What makes a play work is different dynamics, a change of pace and tone to keep the audience captivated. Even with little children the experts say that without variety the audience will drift off and lose interest, and I don’t think this changes when we grow into adults. If you look past the actors’ performances, Cameron’s words resonate with beauty, truth and rich detail that is bound to captivate the audience. However, the actors stick with one note throughout most of the play which drowns the poetry of the piece and makes it hard to follow at some times. That said, McAuley is very good at engaging her audience and her character feels the most real of them all.
What is also confusing about this production is Andy Robinson’s costume design. The three women wear clothes from very different periods and it takes us some time to actually realise that it’s not memories from different times but actually three women living in the same town, at the same time – and not the 40s, 70s and present day as the costumes suggest.
Director Jane Moriarty no doubt has a sense of drama and pace, but her production doesn’t resonate with its audience as much as the writing suggests. The White Bear is a great venue though and fits the coldness of the women’s stories perfectly.
New theatre company Red Cart, started by the play’s actresses, aims to stage plays with women’s stories at heart. They have definitely picked the right one with Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down, an important voice for women, but their execution of it feels somewhat lukewarm at times.
Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down is playing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington until 10 August. For tickets visit www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk