17 monologues written by women make up this year’s Madwomen Monologue production, the fourth season by producers Bridgette Burton and Christina Costigan who established Mad Woman Monologues in 2011 as a showcase for women playwrights. The four night season of monologues enjoys a strong following, attracting submissions from a wide variety of writers; the short pieces of ten minutes and under coming from women new to playwriting as well as those more established. Burton and Costigan’s company Baggage Productions came into being out of their frustration with the lack of sold roles performance for women in and over the last four years their Mad Women Monologues has become an important must-see in Melbourne’s independent theatre, scene, providing a significant production opportunity for not only writers but actors and directors.
Best of all is that 50% of profits from ticket sales go to the White Ribbon foundation, the campaign to stop violence against women. Two venues are hosting the shows this year, the first show was held at the Bluestone Arts Space in Fitzroy. The night was bookended by the most memorable pieces, starting off with The Legs and the Heart and the Head by Kathryn Goldie, a story from a boy from the 1930s, a would-be cycling champion, with Amy Coutts delivering a sweetly nostalgic but unsentimental chat from the past. The show closed with The Bodybuilder, a horror/comedy piece by Anna Williamson featuring a female Frankenstein trying to put together the perfect man to accompany her to a wedding, a satisfyingly gory and madcap finale marvelously performed by Eva Torkkola. The other pieces dealt mostly with love and loss, including one other monologue from a male perspective, Flat White, No Sugar by Melissa Lee Speyer, featuring a refreshingly unsympathetic character played by Luke Stephens.
All of the pieces were well crafted and nicely written but without risky engagement with language or dramatic convention. Some of monologues I would have been just as happy to read; there didn’t seem to be a real reason for them to be on stage. The stories were all in the first person, and mostly presented by conventional and or contemporary characters, reliable narrators all. All of the works could go further and deeper in terms of theatricality and daring, in terms of stakes, tension, narrative arcs, character shifts and idiosyncratic voice. (Bring on some villains and liars!) Monologues are notoriously tricky to write well, especially in the short form we saw here. All said, it was a pleasant evening of theatre, certainly the performances were generally of a high calibre and I was never bored.
Baggage Productions presents
Madwomen Monologues (Programme 1)
Wriiten by Kathryn Goldie, Christina Costigan, Gayelene Carbis, Rhonda Cotsell, Melissa Lee Speyer, Anna Williamson, Bridgette Burton, Chantal Harrison
Directors: Tania Le Page, Bridgette Burton, Shannon Woollard, Karen Corbett, David Lawson-Smith, Douglas Scott Montgomery, Leo Taylor
Venue: The Bluestone Church Arts Space - Corner Napier and Hyde streets, Footscray
Dates: Programme 1 – Bluestone: 22 & 23 November 2014
Programme 2 – Taphouse: 26 & 27 November 2014