Monologue Plays

Plays

About A Goth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A short monologue play about a young man who volunteers in old people’s homes and suffers paroxysms of love and hate for its residents.

Nick is seventeen, a Goth and gay. In between volunteering at his local old people’s home where he conversely gets chatted up and abused by its residents and having to attend re-enactments of Medieval battles with his slightly barmy parents, he finds the time to hang out with best mate, Greg. But a sudden death at the home forces him to confront his fears of coming out as well as perhaps giving his pessimistic mindset a rethink. Wells is well known for his touching comic monologues that are ideal showcases for young actors.

About A Goth was first performed at Òran Mór in Glasgow in 2009.

Actor

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

An actor speaks on the phone to his agents, his parents, and his fellow thespians, battling with rejection, expectation, disappointment and self-pity.

A short monologue which delves into the heart of the acting industry, Actor humorously and poignantly portrays the trying life of being a struggling artist.

Actor premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in January 1984.

The Age of Consent

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Age of Consent places in counterpoint two acutely uncomfortable monologues about childhood, responsibility and the shattering of innocence.

One voice is a teenager awaiting his release from a correctional facility after serving his time for the murder of a child. The other is the young mother of a child performer, ruthlessly scheming for fame and fortune, and making sure her daughter will do absolutely whatever it takes.

The characters are united by a sense of denial, as well as the humanity that can exist behind even the most monstrous abuse. Morris’s controversial and powerful play premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2001, and was condemned and acclaimed for tackling the subject of child killers.

Alice Trilogy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Alice Trilogy is a haunting triptych of disappointment and gnawing sadness. Three acts, closer to monologues than conversations, show three ages in the life of Alice, an unhappy housewife.

1980, in the afternoon murk of her attic, with whiskey in her coffee, is she losing her grip on reality?

1995, she has summoned a lost love to meet her by the gasworks wall.

2005, at the airport, a tragedy presses to the surface of her internal monologue.

Alice is a mesmerising creation, existing only half in her domestic married life, and half in a dream-like world of alter-egos and strange detachment.

Alice Trilogy premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2005.

Angel  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's Angel is a dramatic monologue for a female performer, inspired by the true story of Rehana, the 'Angel of Kobane', a Kurdish fighter who became a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Echoes.

Angel was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2016 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is narrated by Rehana, the 'Angel', who, according to a note in the script, 'tells her autobiographical story directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. The action takes place in Syria, in 2014. The town of Kobane is under siege by ISIS, who, having steam-rollered through Iraq, are expecting to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper with a hundred kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She's the legendary Angel of Kobane.

The premiere production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Filipa Bragança. In the subsequent tour of Australia (beginning at Mittagong Playhouse on 7 February 2017), Rehana was played by Avital Lvova.

An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A monologue about an inexperienced young woman, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side is a clever monologue describing the growing incomprehension of a critic of the Suffragette movement as she struggles to undersand why she was against votes for women in the first place.

Described in her introduction by Naomi Paxton as ‘charming, clever . . . a fantastic monologue for an actress, full of character, well written and enjoyable to play’, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side was first published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1910.

As Good a Time As Any

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

On a spring morning in London, eight women, young and old, speak for the continuity of everyday life. Over five choruses, these ordinary inhabitants of the city reveal a world that has an intensity and depth of emotion that make it transcendent and universal.

As Good a Time As Any premiered at the Print Room, London, in April 2015.

Bad Roads  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Natal'ya Vorozhbit's Bad Roads is a play about life in war-torn Ukraine, focussing in particular on the war's impact on women. It was developed by the Royal Court International Department, and first performed in this English translation by Sasha Dugdale at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 15 November 2017.

The play has six scenes, each one exploring a facet of the war. In the first scene, a Kiev-based writer tells the story of a research trip she made to the battle zone a year after the siege of Donetsk airport, and how she fell for her patriotic escort. The ensuing scenes show teenage girls eagerly waiting for soldiers, a female medic transporting her lover’s headless corpse, and a young journalist outwitting her captor.

The premiere production was directed by Vicky Featherstone and designed by Camilla Clarke. It was performed by Ronke Adekoluejo, Samuel Anderson, Vincent Ebrahim, Anne Lacey, Tadhg Murphy, Mike Noble and Ria Zmitrowicz.

Baglady

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Baglady was first performed at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, in March 1985.

Barnes’ People: Eight Monologues

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Barnes’ People is a series of wonderfully varied monologues from deeply imagined individuals. Whether their stories are historical, fantastic or familiar, they are always intimate and human.

‘Confessions of a Primary Terrestrial Mental Receiver and Communicator: Num III Mark I’ is spoken by a man who finds a meaning for his life through covert correspondence with aliens.

‘The Jumping Mimuses of Byzantium’, spoken by an aged hermit, is based on a legend of a tumbling jester and a wanton prostitute with a nocturnal secret.

‘The Theory and Practise of Belly-Dancing’ is about finding a way to survive the everyday.

‘The End of the World – And After’ is spoken by William Miller, a preacher who amassed a large following by predicting that Christ’s Second Coming would occur in 1844.

A one-hundred-and-thirteen year old woman tells an interviewer about her calmly scurrilous life in ‘Yesterday’s News’.

‘Glory’ is the final oration of Peregrinus Proteus, an Ancient Greek philosopher famous for parricide, before he steps on to his own funeral pyre.

In ‘No End to Dreaming’, an old man tells his psychoanalyst about growing up in the Cracow ghetto and about his dreams.

The monologues were presented by BBC Radio 3 in 1981.

Monologue is a broad term that may accommodate a widely diverse set of practices ranging from Samuel Beckett's minimalist theatre of interiority to Karen Finley's provocative and political solo performance pieces. Monologue invites questions about the very nature of theatre itself, about the nature of performance and audience response, truth and illusion, narrative and experience. Is it an undoing or dismemberment of theatre's core characteristics – imitative action and dialogue? What balance of mimesis and diegesis works theatrically? Is it merely an excuse for autobiographical excess where the performance text is little more than a collection of reminiscences or testimonies? Monologue theatre in its assorted guises is manifestly a twentieth-century phenomenon allied to increasingly complex and ambivalent attitudes to the speaking subject, agency and interiority on stage. While August Strindberg's The Stronger (1888–9) or Eugene O'Neill's Before Breakfast (1916) might be cited as early examples of monologue plays, it is not until Samuel Beckett began to explore the form in the late 1950s that its experimental resonances are seriously engaged. Beckett remains a key, catalysing force in the development of monologue as a form in the modern theatre. Arguably in the field of contemporary theatre and performance, monologue's modalities have rapidly proliferated, tending in directions as diverse as the narrative games of a playwright like Conor McPherson, to the traumatic and fragmented testimonies of Sarah Kane, to a wealth of forms of solo, autobiographical performance.

The characteristic linking such multifaceted and dissimilar practices is performance in which dialogue does not play a role, although it must be recognised that the looseness of such a definition does little to neatly establish monologue as a genre. In his Dictionary of Theatre (1998), Patrice Pavis offers a useful typology of monologues categorising them according to dramaturgical function (narrative, lyrical/emotional, reflection/deliberation) and literary form (aside, stanza, interior monologue, authorial intervention, solitary dialogue and the monologue drama).

Two main strands in the theatre of monologue can be teased out: the monologue drama and the solo performance. These strands at times are very separate; at others they are closely interwoven. Both involve a speaker who delivers talks before an audience, sometimes directly addressing that audience, sometimes addressing a silent or invisible character-auditor (see for example Samuel Beckett's Not I (1972) or Harold Pinter's Monologue (1973)). Though, in some cases, speeches relate stories, this may not be their primary function. If there is more than one speaker on stage speeches are not dialogical, rather they function as discrete units that may overlap or contradict one another. A template example of this technique is to be found in Brian Friel's Faith Healer (1979) in which three characters tell overlapping, yet discordant, stories of their past life together. Like monologue drama, the monologue or solo performance is generally carefully scripted. However, the status of the text clearly differs. If solo performance scripts appear less frequently in print, more importantly, they belong to the author/performer in a way a conventional playtext does not belong to the playwright. Monologue in the sense of solo performance is therefore subjectively determined in an explicit and complex manner which is often non-transferable.

Given the contexts for monologue in the world beyond the theatre, it should be unsurprising that monologue and naturalism have little affinity with one another. As Pavis notes, 'The monologue reveals the artificiality of theatre and acting conventions. Certain periods that were not concerned with producing a naturalistic rendering of the world could easily accommodate the monologue (Shakespeare, Sturm und Drang, Romantic or Symbolist drama)' (1998). Consequently, monologue dramas and performances rarely preserve the conventions of a naturalistic stage space and regularly dispense with the illusion of the fourth wall. In the absence of these conventions, monologue involves heightened and intense attention to the speaker and the way in which s/he expresses her or himself. Language, the dynamics of narrative and linguistic elements are, as a result, central to the workings of monologue theatre. So for instance Peter Handke's Kaspar (1967) stages the violent acquisition of language, described by the playwright as 'speech torture' (11). At the other end of the spectrum, Anna Deavere Smith's performances Fires in the Mirror (1991) and Twilight Los Angeles, 1992 (1993) are composed of eyewitness accounts (of violent clashes between African Americans and Jews in Brooklyn following the death of a black child killed by a car carrying a rabbi, and the L.A. riots) assembled and performed by Smith. Replicating the stories of the witnesses and their modes of expression through impersonation are the focal points of her performances.

In some cases the monologue form, may seem to be a turn to 'essential' storytelling, a stripping away of dramatic illusion, qualities that have been explored extensively in recent Irish monologue theatre. Nonetheless, distortion and dissonance are simultaneously vital. It seems no accident the regularity with which nudity features in solo performance. The literal stripping of the performer may be seen as a means of exposing a 'true' self while simultaneously shocking or embarrassing audiences. Yet even figurative exposure is accompanied by the possibility of unreliability or manipulation, and that as spectators we take the role of confessors, or worse still, voyeurs.

Inevitably this draws any discussion of monologue to a set of central concerns orientated around subjectivity and performance. The roles of personality, persona, personification and impersonation are yoked to the linguistic and narrative elements mentioned above. Aspects of impersonation, in the sense of taking on and of giving voice to an identity for instance, animate Eve Ensler's problematic 'empowerment' play The Vagina Monologues (1996). Ensler's personae exist not as conventional characters, but rather as a function of the stories they tell. The status of the play as a celebrity vehicle and the pseudo-documentary status of the stories further complicate the interplay of personal, political and performative identities. Highly self-reflexive games of impersonation connect with contemporary monologue theatre's attempts to grapple with the (post)modern condition of the self. Deborah Geis, in her study of American monologue drama, Postmodern Theatric(k)s: Monologue in Contemporary American Drama (1993), contends that in contrast to the revelatory function of the soliloquy in Shakespeare's drama, present-day monologues are frequently characterised by the ways in which they play 'tricks', that undermine the conventions of character development or narrative progress, and deploy theatricality, parody and ambivalence.

To conclude, monologue may point toward a radically anti-narrative theatre of the fragmented subject, or to a much more conventional drama of story-telling, testimony and confession. The use of persona as a means of social critique, the undermining gender stereotypes through role play, the blurring of the outlines of the autobiographical, 'authentic' subject and self-reflexive narrative games are among the most significant and recurrent features of a diverse genre of monologue theatre and performance in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

by Clare Wallace, Associate Professor at the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures, Charles University, Prague.