Review: The B*easts, Underbelly Cowgate

This dark and gripping play, written and performed by Monica Dolan, explores the sinister potential of what parents will do to answer their childrens’ demands. It is one, tense monologue which is only ever broken by occasional phone calls which incrementally reveal more about the life of our narrator.

It becomes clear in the early stages of the show that Dolan is playing a therapist, working on a singular case that provides an original, and eventually disturbing subject for a play.

Dolan is brilliant; her acting is exceptionally nuanced and naturalistic. She delivers her monologue with all the complexity and depth of an essay on psychoanalysis, with the personality and hold to keep audiences leaning in from start to finish.

The play seems to be set in a not quite dystopian world that is reminiscent of Black Mirror’s projections of the near future. Though the events unfolding in the monologue seem extreme, they are only really a few steps further in the direction that our increasingly voyeuristic society is already heading in. It is a show that holds a mirror up to the darkest parts of our society and magnifies them, but only slightly. Audiences are asked to think and reflect throughout the whole show.

The start of the play sets our intrigue in motion instantly, as Dolan makes us feel as though she is about to share a forbidden secret. The plot is a mystery to start with, as she deftly plays with time and perspectives. Though the story becomes darker and more detailed throughout, clever use of language means that some things are left ambiguous, some loose ends untied.

The show entertains, but more importantly it forces us to reflect on the part we have to play in a society which could allow the twisted events of the narrative to become reality.

Dolan does an exceptional job of making us confront what is deeply uncomfortable about the world we live in. From one armchair, relying solely on her incredible acting and storytelling ability, Dolan exposes the darkest corners of advertising, misogyny and the internet with an intense emotional impact.

The B*easts played at Underbelly Cowgate as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.