Saturday, 17 August 2019

17/08/19: Bombshells, Cockpit Theatre

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith and directed by Sarah Howard, Bombshells is a one-woman show that tells the stories of four very different women. These characters are each brought to life in four separate monologues brilliantly delivered by Laura Ashenden.

Meryl Louise Davenport is struggling with three children, one of them a young baby, and wrestling with conflicting feelings about being a bad mother. She desperately loves her kids but feels judged by other mums. And she desperately needs a coffee...

Tiggy Entwistle is at a public-speaking event, making a presentation about her keen appreciation of cacti, but keeps being distracted by her recent break-up. She finds that succulents and lost love suddenly have everything in common...

Australian Theresa McTerry is about to be married. Squeezing into her wedding dress, she tried to convince us – and herself – how much she adores Ted and cannot wait to be his wife. But then it dawns on her what she’s letting herself in for...

Finally, Zoe Struthers is a Brooklyn-based singer, on tour and on stage, trying to keep her career afloat...

In a highly expressive performance that draws out every nuance of the clever writing, Laura Ashenden reveals the joy and despair that lurk in unexpected moments just beneath the surface of daily life. There’s a huge range of emotions evoked here, and the script is sharp enough that we see these feelings constantly shifting and evolving as they are expressed. A roller-coaster spectacle this energetic must have been exhausting to deliver across 80 minutes, but you’d never know it from the sheer energy on display.

The simple set consists of a dressing table, a clothes rail and – most strikingly – a colour-coded circle of high-heeled shoes from within which the monologues are relayed. Two of the pieces feature live music from a singer/guitarist and a drummer, which adds a certain richness to the “wedding party” and “live-in-concert” segments.

Behind the stage is a screen on which the entire script of the show is projected. The presence of this text is distracting as it’s impossible to ignore in your field of vision, although the addition of occasional images (cacti, the Queen) offers visual variety.

The opening story is the most effective and really gets inside the pressures and pains of new parenthood, with all the self-doubt and uncertainty that accompanies a life turned upside down. The closing story seems the weakest, with the least room for its protagonist to develop, perhaps because the parts that are sung prevent the rapid-fire verbal outpourings that make the other personalities so three-dimensional.

The strongest monologues blend brash humour and insightful observation with a touching pathos and vulnerability. The characters become fully believable people you recognise and sympathise with. By peering into these four women’s inner lives, Bombshells helps us better understand our own.

ORIGINALLY REVIEWED FOR SPY IN THE STALLS.

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