The One Festival is a new writing and performance platform in The Space, a delightfully gothic former church in the midst of the financial district’s mini suburbia on the Isle of Dogs in East London. This evening – Programme B – is an evening of four performers doing monologues, some self-written, some not, and of a dubiously varying quality.
Fortuna Burke’s self-made creation, starring in her own comedic one-woman show, Laundrette Superstar, is a tragicomic – occasionally witty, sometimes gratuitous – study of a fame-obsessed young teenager who moons around in her room with her synthesisers, and posters of Justin Bieber and Tom Cruise. Fortuna (as an actress, not her character of the same name) certainly is unafraid of self-deprecation, which is what makes her confidence endearing to the audience. However, her default is simply to show off her street attitude with a Beyoncé-style click of the fingers. This becomes annoying after a while, because you experience little character development in the hour spent with her fame-hungry alter ego. Fortuna (the character) does, however, does have some comedic gems to offer – positing her grandma as a moody teenager who “listens to David Bowie at all hours of the night, smoking cigarettes’”and does a cracking impression of a posh knitwear-clad hipster Matilda, who runs a Shoreditch record shop and thoroughly disapproves of any music coming from a synthesiser. This performance is entertaining but slightly tragic, as I am sure that Fortuna’s dreaming, scheming and subsequent disappointment with reality is symptomatic of the common dream of fame.
Next up is A Blue Bonnet for Samuel by Alice Jolly, performed with intimate realism by Catherine Harvey. This is an exploration of stillbirth and is packed with heart-breaking realism and detail. Harvey merely sits in the centre of the stage, speaking directly to the audience with engaging honesty and intimacy, playing on her softness and fragility.
Then we have another very strong piece of writing for women: Asena by Stephen Loveless, performed by Genevieve Cleghorn, charts the story of an Argentinian girl who is brought to England under the pretext of marrying the ‘man of her dreams’, only to be betrayed and sold as a sex slave. Cleghorn, in visceral detail, charts Asena’s experiences in a London brothel and her failed attempts to escape when sent out to prostitute herself on a more ‘high- class’ job in an upmarket hotel. Loveless’s script is slightly laboured and could’ve been cut slightly, but Cleghorn’s powerful delivery keeps you engaged throughout.
Finally is The Elegance of an Empty Room, written and performed by Gerry Howell. This pseudo-comic treatise on the creative process, about a writer suffering from writer’s block, isn’t funny or intelligent, merely coming across as a reflection of some of the problems that Howell himself might have come across when writing this. His antics of procrastination when he’s meant to be writing (the audience are invited to look at the back of his computer screen as he taps away creating a trite story about Henry the Fish) are pretty annoying, as, like Fortuna’s, they become repetitive. However, this festival is not about perfection, but experimentation. The audience and these reviews are a litmus test for the above to try out their new material. What doesn’t work today, may, after some more thought and redrafting, work when these guys next resurface on the London theatre scene.