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‘Getting up close & personal is often what the style demands’: AVALANCHE / WALK OF SHAME (Online review)

The monologue has proved a very popular form for theatre makers of late from high profile venues like The Bridge (Talking Heads) and The National (Delroy: Death Of England) to smaller intimate spaces such as Southwark Playhouse (The Poltergeist) and Jermyn Street (15 Heroines). The attractions of putting a single performer on stage during these socially distanced times is all too obvious. It has also been a trend in the online theatre world –  for a start they must be generally easier to film and a camera getting up close and personal is often what the style demands.

An interesting addition to the genre is Avalanche released by Bloom Theatre recently. Alex is a young professional skier who spends his life perfecting his skill on the slopes of a mountain. His life is highly controlled and that’s the way he likes it as he trains and readies himself for competition by exercising, acclimatising, planning his ski runs and carefully monitoring his social interactions. And then one night he drops his guard and enters into the party spirit perpetuated by his colleagues. The result is disastrous, and he ends up in someone else’s bed, the victim of rape. Like the snow event he is trained to cope with, Alex’s world comes crashing down on him – he certainly cannot cope with this and there’s an overflow of emotion which wrecks his confidence as a sportsman and as a person.

Not that this is immediately obvious. The script written by Simon Fraser with Jack Albert Cook and as directed by Alistair Wilkinson, almost underplays the central event. It is only gradually that we realise what a devastating effect it has had on the young man. This is a clever way of presenting Alex’s dilemma and in Sonny Poon Tip’s carefully layered portrayal we come to understand that he is in further danger as he more or less has been internalising the trauma. Alex does break down in front of us but he soon brings that back under control. The expected explosion of emotional anger never materialises as Alex carefully tries to regulate himself in this, as in all things, putting him in an even more perilous situation with his mental health. One day there will be another avalanche and the result may well be rather a tragic one.

Rape is also the subject of Walk Of Shame, a short play from Glass Half Full available as part of Online@TheSpaceUK– Season 2. Alice has a night out to get away from Billy who’s annoyed her. She hooks up with Liam who is in party mood. Alice is raped. I’m sorry to outline the plot quite so starkly but considering the way in which this piece is presented I feel it is appropriate.

The play starts out as a monologue from Alice (Stephanie Silver) and the character portrayed is likely to immediately divide many of the crowd as to whether she is responsible for her own fate. She comes across as brash and pleasure seeking, a bit of a sponger and not particularly interested in the feelings of others; despite initial appearances, she is clearly vulnerable. Halfway through the piece, a second monologue starts up, giving us the point of view of Liam (Sam Landon). He seems like the chivalrous type and his mum has told him that women like men to be strong and authoritative and that’s what he thinks he’s being. The play then flits back and forth between the two viewpoints although its attempts to examine both sides of the argument rather undercuts the enormity of the situation.

I’m really not convinced that this play does anything to further the cause of the debate on consent. At twenty minutes there’s no room for it or the characters to breathe and it’s the usual scenario of drink and drugs being at the bottom of the issue which, to me, seems like a cheap get out. The writing (Silver with Amelia Lovsey) is rather clichéd and even the structure seems creaky. Alice is supposedly telling us all this after the event has occurred and yet for most of the piece she is externally bright eyed, resilient and apparently enjoying telling us about her adventure. Then as she reaches the central event she is suddenly knocked into a heap – this simply does not make sense and this inconsistency left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. By contrast the character of Alex is, in hindsight, hiding an awful truth from the outset and therefore Avalanche is much the stronger play about this devastating issue.

from News, Reviews and Features – My Theatre Mates

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