The four monologues of Misfits, streaming via Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, present slightly-too-disparate aspects of life in Essex
“I am the bastard love child of Chas and Dave”
The monologue has been a mainstay of lockdown programming so there’s something sadly inevitable that Misfits, commissioned in the first lockdown, finds its IRL run kyboshed by the second. But Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch were live to the risks and had already developed a model where audience members could choose whether to book an actual or virtual seat to see the show.
Misfits appears as part of their Essex on Stage season, and sees short plays by Anne Odeke, Guleraana Mir, Kenny Emson and Sadie Hasler encapsulating something of the inimitable Essex spirit through its vivid characters. So there’s nights out in Romford or Southend aplenty with pints of Snakebite and canary yellow GTIs but also a great deal of heart and a defiant sense of identity, which sometimes has to be worked on.
Co-directed by Douglas Rintoul and Emma Baggott, the four monologues have been deftly intertwined , pieces of each story slowly accumulating into the whole but while this approach does keep an energy about the show, it also fragments it a little too much. There’s not quite enough thematic glue to keep the structure dramatically whole, something exacerbated by the use of music, the individualism of each piece ending up prime.
Which may well have been the intent, it just didn’t click with me in the way I was anticipating, especially given the not inconsiderable length of the show. I suspect the whirling vitality of the show would have been magic in the theatre, roared on by an audience who got every single local detail and that might have swept me up into more enthusiasm. The four performances are all strong, without a doubt though.
The testosterone-soaked nostalgia of thomas Coombes’ Tag, now replanted in the north; Mona Goodwin’s Fiza trying to banish thoughts of divorce with memories of nightclubs; Gemma Salter’s Daisy analysing motherhood as she goes into labour; and most intriguing of all, Odeke’s cleverly structured dramatisation of the true story of the first black woman to compete in a beauty pageant in the UK. A fascinating enterprise all round.