A quaint fringe venue in North London, The Hen & Chicken’s modest theatre space is currently home to Golden Age Theatre Company’s series of monologues – Testimony. Each evening features two of a wide selection of monologues, all written and directed by Ian Dixon Potter.
This evening we are presented with two classically inspired pieces, the first of which is Iago, exploring the narrative of the villainous character of the same name from Shakespeare’s Othello.
Modernising the story, Dixon Potter incorporates the Black Lives Matter movement into Iago’s motivation for his devious plot to bring down the legendary Colonel Othello. Having been passed over for promotion in favour of an inexperienced soldier of colour, he criticises the decision as discrimination, tormented by the changing world for the common white man.
The monologue does well to adapt the general narrative of Iago’s plotting to a naturally spoken text, whilst still maintaining some of the heightened voice of Shakespeare’s original. Neil Summerville’s performance finds a very enjoyable facet of a very dislikeable man, bringing a sniggering humour to his disdainful demeanour and developing this renown villain in a truly believable way. There does come a little unwarranted discomfort when Summerville loses his words at times, though in a hefty monologue such as this it’s not surprising, and he does a superb job of maintaining character and letting the slips add to the performance rather than detract.
The piece is segmented into chunks that follow Iago’s pivotal moments in the play, in each section we are taken through what has been happening, the character’s attitude to it, and then his plan for what is to come. This predictable format actually feels remarkably reassuring as the monologue progresses, leading us through with both reflection and spontaneous thought.
Taking over the stage next is I, Richard, bringing a new perspective to the historical treatment of Richard III. Unlike the Richard that we know from the likes of Shakespeare’s play, this man is a loyal and considerate one, not plotting or vying for power, but reluctantly accepting his duty to lead England in a time of crisis, undermined at every turn by lies and conspiracy.
In contrast to the first piece, I, Richard completely submerges us in the period of the piece in narrative, language, and appearance. Based on Dixon Potter’s play Good King Richard, there is a lot to digest given the immense summarising of an already complex story. This struggle is further compounded by Ivan Comisso’s performance, which hits a brilliant intensity that captures the turmoil of Richard, but fails to deliver vocally, often swallowing his words or underarticulating.
With two thematically similar pieces it is great to see both presented with vastly differing voices, making the evening a varied experience. Both characters in these monologues have been examined for generations and yet these monologues bring a fresh approach which revitalises their already intriguing tales.
Testimony played at The Hen & Chickens Theatre until 10 July 2021. For more information visit Golden Age Theatre’s Website.