What do comic actress
Geraldine McNulty, playwright David Hare and occasional
BBC London 94.9FM presenter and cabaret singer/comedian Jackie
Clune have in common?
All are currently
to be found gracing London stages in one-person shows.
is playing the title role of Betty, described as a ‘darkly
comic’ new play by Karen McLachlan and directed by Kathy
Burke (pictured), which has just opened at the Vaudeville.
Hare is about to reprise his theatrical response to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, Via Dolorosa, at the Duchess, first produced under
the auspices of the Royal Court at the Duke of York’s.
And Clune is starring
in Tim Fountain’s Julie Burchill Is Away, just finishing
its run at Soho Theatre on 13 July.
month’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival promises a veritable avalanche
of one-person shows, on subjects as diverse as tributes to George
Orwell and explorations of child sex abuse.
There are lots
of reasons why one-person shows are so popular, but it often boils
down to two things: economics and ego.
With a cast of
one, your wage bill is at its absolute minimum; and there’s also
no one else to take the limelight, a place that actors like being
in because (it goes without saying) they wouldn’t be onstage otherwise!
Perils and pleasures
and director Jonathon Lloyd
Jackie Clune comments
on the perils as well as the pleasures of going it alone:
“It’s lonely, there’s
nobody to chat to in the dressing room and there’s nobody else to
take the flak. The pressure is all on me and sometimes it’s too
much. It can lead you into all sorts of terrors. But when it’s good
and the audience applauds, I know they’re clapping for me and no
shows, like David Hare’s, are born of an urgent and personal need
to say something. Or to celebrate a particular personality, like
Clune’s current incarnation as newspaper columnist Julie Burchill.
begins as a one-person show, but grows into something else. Eve
Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues – which she culled from over
200 interviews with women and originally performed solo – has now
become a show whose speeches are distributed amongst a changing
rota of three celebrity performers.
if it succeeds, the solo show isn’t so solo after all: not because
it becomes part of something else like this, but because the audience
becomes a part of it, too.
That’s the true
test of the virtue – and virtuosity – of the solo show.