Character Solos (Tristan Bates Theatre)

Another first-time visit for me, this time to the cute little studio theatre hidden within the Actors’ Centre in Seven Dials.

Named for the son of Alan Bates who died aged 19 and funded in his memory, this theatre presents challenging and interesting work – this show, which ran twice yesterday, is produced by Effort Productions, who focus on “clear, elaborately drawn, physically realised characters with strong objectives”.

Although I have seen monologues performed before by solo artists, I haven’t really come across anything like Character Solos, where the actor has created a short piece which includes other characters invisible to us, with whom they interact.

Sophie Angelson in Character Solos
Sophie Angelson in Character Solos

Directed by James Kemp, there are nine short solos performed by six actors. Sophie Angelson’s Jennifer started the ball rolling with an amusing piece about a chatty American girl planning her flatmate’s birthday party and meeting a stranger carrying their stereo. She returns later with Laurie which provides interesting contrast.

Sarah Woodruff’s Papusza, with its sense of magic realism and power games, sits well with her H-1F ‘Girly’ personal care robot. Kate Sumpter’s closing piece, Jenna, is a shout-out for girl power in a corporate world, and her Sam, with the runner who can’t find room in her heart for love, is another portrait of a strong women, but this time with a core of vulnerability.

Teddy Walker in Character Solos´╗┐
Teddy Walker in Character Solos

The other pieces, Ezra by Teddy Walker with its sense of school sadism, Gloria by Orna Salinger – which evoked the same mental breakdown of a wife and poet, and Isaac by Rotimi Pearce with the cynicism of organised religion, are interesting, but I didn’t find them quite as successful: still, these were accomplished character studies even if they didn’t connect with me in the same way.

This has now become an annual feature at the Tristan Bates Theatre, and I would recommend you pay a visit when it next comes around. You may well be spotting a star of stage and screen in the future, or at the very least, you will have a entertaining and provoking couple of hours’ entertainment.