By Carmel Shortall
The Thelmas bring their second Ladylogue to the Camden Fringe with six new one-woman short plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre. The six pieces are produced, written, directed and performed by women – The Thelmas were founded in 2014 to redress the gender imbalance in British Theatre and they are pursuing this objective with remarkable success.
Ghost, written by Lucy Foster is performed by Kim Burnett as Alex. Alex is getting ready for a job interview and facing up to the fact that she may not be a ‘people person’ in more ways than one. Since a family tragedy she feels she has become a ghost – left behind, hiding in plain sight. Kim Burnett gives a deceptively low key performance allowing us past her character’s bluff exterior – “Hello I’m Alex!” – to the lack of self-esteem within.
Ladykiller by Madeline Gould marks a complete change of mood. Hannah McClean plays the hotel maid you really do not want to cross, with relish, psychopathic insouciance and a blood-soaked apron. “Be nice to people who work in customer services,” she warns.
Mina Maisuria’s My Sons Are Doctors introduces more humour, but this time with a poignant edge. Asha Kingsley hides out in a supermarket toilet with a trolley filled to the brim with BOGOFs with which to feed her son, Amar, who is all she has left after losing a stillborn baby and her husband. She’s hiding to avoid Mrs Patel, her new doctor’s excessively proud mother. Dr Patel doesn’t recognise Amar’s condition as a disability – unlike the previous doctor – but it doesn’t matter now as it looks like she will get him onto Britain’s Fattest Kids TV show: “It could change his life!” the Programme Liason person says. Asha Kingsley succeeds brilliantly in bringing all the contradictions of her character to the fore without ever resorting to sentimentality.
Family (Mis)fortunes, written and performed by Maria Yarjah, highlights the problems of having your relatives all over your Facebook page, especially when your strict African dad becomes Facebook-literate. Maria Yarjah performs her piece with humour, energy and a deft comic touch.
The Night Tella by Sarah Milton marks another change of mood and pace. Inspired by Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella, Joanna Nastari’s passionate spoken performance brings out the whirling, rhythms of the dance, building tension as a night’s clubbing ends in tragedy.
Zero by Serena Haywood has Sarah Cowan’s agoraphobic character locked into her home with only her laptop and social media to link her to the outside world. She’s waiting for a Benefits Assessor to decide if she has too much space to live in… With the soundtrack of the 1969 moon landing playing in the background, she has to decide just how she’s going to launch that escape pod. Sarah Cowan brings terrific energy to the part – you can almost feel the pressure building within her.
Madeline Moore’s skilful direction brings out the commonalities in six very diverse pieces. Topical issues such as social media, isolation and the lives of vulnerable women under austerity are explored through tragedy, comedy and everything in between.