The Me Plays – The Old Red Lion Theatre, until 20 September 2014 (Tickets)
Filed by our roving reviewer, Emily Howe
Written and performed by Andrew Maddock, The Me Plays are a couple of self-penned, semi-autobiographical monologues, currently showing at The Old Red Lion. The space is perfect for the piece; intimate yet with a buzz to it, and it certainly helps that this little theatre is sold-out for tonight’s show.
Maddock is bursting with energy and self-deprecating humour. Both of his monologues are directly addressed to the audience in a brave performance where (although I don’t know with any surety how much of the content was true or how much fiction) it feels like he is opening his life up for us to see.
The first of the two pieces, “Junkie”, describes Me’s modern life in the digital-age, and seems to be aimed more towards the men in the audience. Covering Tinder, internet-porn, facebook and pill-popping, its message is that there is a declining need in us to make real connections with the rest of humanity, as we can so easily find what we need online. Me is comforted by the safe, virtual atmosphere of the internet which allows him to switch off when he gets bored, and where there is no chance of rejection and pain.
In the second play of the evening, “Hi Life, I Win”, Me is in hospital and is nostalgically re-living his formative years for us; reminiscing about his school-life, discovering weed for the first-time, being shipped off to a Catholic camp, and the death of his beloved grandad, amongst other very personal moments. Interspersed with his present-day situation in hospital, this is a much more personal journey than “Junkie”, but the experiences that Maddox shares with us, although engaging, were too unique to the writer for me to be able to wholly relate to.
The direction in the first play was clear and consistent; nice use was made of the interesting set and lighting, and the audience believed in the different scenes that were played out in various locations of the set. The second play seemed less slick and was perhaps too static for a stage performance. Although some of the emotional instances were a bit clunky and overly sign-posted, there were also some lovely, subtly-nuanced melancholic moments, particularly during the end of the first play.
Lasting about 45 minutes each, both pieces could have done with tightening up. I really wanted the second monologue to be a complete contrast to the first – perhaps with a different character or in a different style; they were too similar to each other to form a well-balanced evening, particularly as they were both written as rhyming couplets. Both plays would be very successful if they were shortened and included as part of a wider performance.
The Me Plays is precisely what it says it is. Whilst writing these, Maddock seems to have turned inwards, and there is a great deal of himself in the monologues. He is clearly a talented writer and has a lot to say, but I felt his writing was too insular on this occasion, and would have liked to have seen broader, further-reaching issues explored that I could relate to, or that challenged me to think about something in a new light. However, Maddock is a likeable performer and this is an uncomplicated, light-hearted, humorous evening that an audience in their twenties or thirties would enjoy.
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