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.

The Black and White

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

The Black and White, together with Trouble in the Works, was first performed in the revue One to Another, which opened at the Lyric, Hammersmith on 15 July 1959.

Borders  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's play Borders is a two-hander about idealism, personal and professional ethics, how the West interacts with the East, the conflict in Syria, and the migrant crisis. It was first produced as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the Gilded Balloon Theatre, Edinburgh, as a Redbeard Theatre/Gilded Balloon production on 2 August 2017.

The play interweaves the converging stories (told mostly in monologue) of two characters: Sebastian Nightingale, a celebrated war photographer, whose audience with Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11 shaped his career; and a nameless young Syrian graffiti artist whose urge to rebel lands her in serious trouble as the Assad regime embarks on a civil war, and, six months pregnant, she finds herself on an ageing fishing boat in the Mediterranean, sinking fast under the weight of refugees.

The Redbeard Theatre/Gilded Balloon production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Graham O’Mara and Avital Lvova. It won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Fringe Award and a Fringe First.

The script was rewritten for the Australian premiere at the Holden Street Theatre, Adelaide, on 12 February 2018, with the same cast directed by Louise Skaaning.

Borders was then performed at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston in May 2018 and at The Theatre Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop in June–July 2018, with the same cast, directed by Michael Cabot with Louise Skaaning.

BU21

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stuart Slade's play BU21 is about six young people caught in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in the heart of London.

It was first performed at Theatre503, London, in association with Kuleshov, on 15 March 2016, and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 11 January 2017 (previews from 4 January).

The play is structured as a series of interlocking monologues, with occasional sequences of dialogue between the characters. The monologues are presented in 'verbatim' style, as six members of a survivors’ group relive their reaction to an attack in which a passenger plane has been brought down over Fulham, southwest London, by a surface-to-air missile. As they relate their individual experiences, links begin to emerge between the characters. Alex, an arrogant banker whose girlfriend has died in the disaster, hooks up with Izzy, who has lost her mother. Floss, a posh student, is linked by unusual circumstances to Clive, a devout Muslim whose cardiologist dad died in the crash. Roxana, a Romanian with severe burns, secretly despises Graham, a bigoted van driver who profits from his eyewitness account of the event. The play explores the different and often surprising ways they try to cope with their traumatic experiences.

The character names in the published script are those of the actors who played them in the first production. An author's note alongside the list of characters states that, 'In performance, actors’ real names should replace these character names wherever possible'.

The first production of BU21 was directed by Dan Pick and designed by Alex Doidge-Green. It was performed by Alex Forsyth, Roxana Lupu, Clive Keene, Florence Roberts, Graham O’Mara and Isabella Laughland.

buckets

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Adam Barnard's buckets is a play about time, its impact on our lives, and how to address the fact that it always seems to be running out. It was first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 28 May 2015.

The play comprises thirty-three interconnected scenes – some just a few lines, others mini-plays in their own right – reflecting on wide-ranging themes including sadness and happiness, illness and health, youth and experience, kissing and crying, singing and dying.

The playscript is intentionally open-ended, with unattributed lines of dialogue. According to a note on the text, the play 'can be performed by any number and composition of actors. Gender, where referenced in dialogue, can generally be switched... A new paragraph usually indicates a change of speaker. Everything’s an option'.

The premiere production was directed by Rania Jumaily and designed by James Turner. It was performed by Jon Foster, Tom Gill, Charlotte Josephine, Sarah Malin, Rona Morison and Sophie Steer, with the addition of a community ensemble.

Bunny

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Bunny is a coming-of-age drama for a solo female performer that tackles teenage sexuality, racism and gang culture. It was first produced by nabokov and Escalator East to Edinburgh in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Colchester, at Underbelly Cowgate at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 5 August 2010.

The play's action is narrated by eighteen-year-old Katie, an ordinary girl from Luton who plays clarinet in the orchestra and is applying for a place at university. When her boyfriend Abe, a black 24 year old, gets involved in a violent street altercation following a perceived racial slight, the situation escalates alarmingly. Katie finds herself in a car riding across the city as Abe and his mates Jake and Asif attempt a revenge attack. Amidst the baying for blood and the longing for love and excitement, Katie is forced to decide her future.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: 'Bunny is my love note to Luton [where he lived for a number of years]. ... My local Post Office was run by a Pakistani gentleman, and twice I was standing in the queue behind two different young kids, looking quite confused about life, wearing English Defence League tops. The strange thing is, both were polite to the Pakistani shopkeeper, and he was polite back. I wanted to tell a story about that racial complication. How it’s not about race per se, but something much more intricate than that.'

The premiere production was directed by Joe Murphy and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by Rosie Wyatt, and featured projected line drawings by Jenny Turner (reproduced in the playtext). The production won a Fringe First Award and subsequently toured the UK from June 2011 before a run at Soho Theatre, London, in October 2011.

Can't Stand Up for Falling Down

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A woman's body is found in a quarry, eight years to the day since her son died in the same place. Three women, strangers to each other, are bound by these events through one man. They have to find a way to break free from 'the fallen' and stand up for themselves.

Winner of the 1990 Independent Theatre Award, Can't Stand up for Falling Down was first performed at that year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before transferring to the Hampstead Theatre London.

Charolais

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A dark comedy of love, longing and an intense rivalry with a Charolais cow. Siobhán is forced to share the affections of her farmer boyfriend with his beloved, prize-winning French heifer. Overcome with desire, Siobhán develops a homicidal jealousy for this cow, while feeling equally murderous towards her snobbish, soon-to-be mother in law.

Ciara

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Ciara's father Mick kept her as his hidden treasure, making sure his only daughter was shielded from what he did and the men and women with whom he associated.

Now Mick is dead and his legacy, so bound up in the landscape of Glasgow, that infamous no mean city, must be faced.

As Ciara seeks to further the reputation of her art gallery, her world starts to fragment. Marked by the deep contradictions of her father, the art world and the place that made them all, she stands on a threshold. By confronting the past, her future blows wide open.

Ciara by David Harrower premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 2013.

Closer to God  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Anna Jordan's short play Closer to God explores the private worlds of strangers, living side by side in a tower block, but generations apart. It was first performed at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London, in 2009 as part of the inaugural OffCut Festival, winning the Overall Winner and Audience Choice Award.

The play is set on the nineteenth floor of a council-owned tower block, with the playing space divided into two areas by an imaginary partition wall. 'She' is a young single mother, while 'He' is a seventy-nine-year-old man in the flat next door. Their interweaving monologues lay bare the differences and connections that can exist between people, living in the sky, just the other side of the thin wall.

The Old Red Lion production was directed by Anna Jordan and performed by Peter Gordon and Ursula Early.

Cold Comfort

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty’s short play Cold Comfort is a monologue about a man returning to his native Belfast for his father's funeral. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions Theatre Company at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast in May 2005.

The play is performed on an empty stage 'but for three simple wooden chairs and a coffin'. Kevin Toner is a washed-up, hard-drinking bricklayer who has returned to Belfast after years of living in Kilburn, London. He has come to attend his father’s funeral. Alone onstage with the coffin bearing his father’s remains, his trusty whisky always to hand, he begins one last conversation with his ‘da’ as he takes an often painful trip down memory lane. A chair is transformed into his mother as he plagues her with questions as to why she left the family home, and another becomes his estranged wife, Theresa, with whom he shared a drink problem. As Kevin slowly grows more inebriated, a portrait emerges of a man grown haggard and bitter from his lonely existence, and from a family tragedy for which he shares the guilt.

The Prime Cut premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by David Craig. It was performed by Patrick O'Kane.

The Collector  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's The Collector is a play about life in occupied Iraq after the 2003 invasion by the US-led coalition, as a team of prison guards become brutalised by war. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes Echoes and Angel.

The Collector was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 30 July 2014, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is told by three storytellers who, according to a note in the published script, 'speak directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. There is Zoya, an Iraqi woman; Colonel ‘Kasper’ Kasprowicz, an American reservist in his forties, in charge of Mazrat Prison; and Foster, an American interrogator, female, twenty-four. Under Saddam, Mazrat was a notorious torture house where more than 10,000 people died; now it is under Allied command, and Nassir works there, translating for the American interrogators. He's local, pro-Western, determined to bring liberal values to his country and is about to get married to Zoya, his sweetheart. But when he is recognised by Faisal, a new prisoner and psychotic supporter of the old regime, Nassir's life becomes a living hell.

The premiere production was directed by Henry Naylor and performed by Ritu Arya (as Zoya), William Reay (as Kasper) and Lesley Harcourt (as Foster).

The show transferred to the Arcola Theatre, London, in November 2014, restaged by director Michael Cabot, and with lighting design by Ross Bibby.

Kathryn Barker Productions under the auspices of Kathryn Cabot launched their own tour of the show in autumn 2016, with the following cast: Shireen Farkhoy (as Zoya), William Reay (as Kasper) and Olivia Beardsley (as Foster).

Crestfall

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

In Mark O'Rowe's play Crestfall, three women recount their lives in a brutally patriarchal and unforgiving town where they are used, abused and manipulated by those around them. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 20 May 2003 (previews from 15 May).

The play comprises three monologues, delivered in turn by three female characters. Olive Day sleeps around with any man she can find, though she never charges. Married to the volatile Jungle, she also has a secret lovechild with the local pimp, Inchy Bassey. Alison Ellis is married to the Bru but struggles to connect with him and tires of her lonely existence. Thirdly, drug-addled prostitute Tilly, forced into a botched abortion by Inchy because of his situation with Olive, decides to let the town know the truth about their secret child, leading to a devastating and bloody finale.

The Gate Theatre production was directed by Garry Hynes and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Aisling O’Sullivan as Olive Day, Marie Mullen as Alison Ellis and Eileen Walsh as Tilly McQuarrie.

The play received its UK premiere at Theatre503, London, on 27 November 2007 in a production directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Paul Wills. The cast was Pauline Hutton, Niamh Cusack and Orla Fitzgerald.

In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe explains his original conception of the play: 'Both Howie the Rookie and Made in China were written for exclusively male casts, so I now decided, out of perversity, I suppose, or for the sake of symmetry, or maybe just to nourish the feminine side of my poetic soul, that I would write a play for a cast which was exclusively female, though it would retain the extremity and darkness and vulgarity and violence (I know, I know; all these masculine qualities), of the earlier work.'

O'Rowe revised the play in preparation for its publication in 2011, making changes 'mostly the language, which I found too spare, too humourless, and almost wilfully contradictory in its lack of flow or rhythm.' He also cut one scene – 'a scene of (almost) bestiality' – which, according to the author, had been received with particular 'horror or outrage' by the audience at the Gate, though his decision to cut the scene was based on the need to resolve 'a minor narrative issue that its existence exposed'. 'The result,' he writes in his foreword, 'is a better play (in my opinion, and once again, what value does that have?), though how much better, I can’t really say. A little better, anyway. Maybe. Or not much worse, in any case.'

Cuttin’ It

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Teenagers Muna and Iqra catch the same school bus. They were both born in Somalia but their backgrounds are very different. What they share is a painful secret. Tracking the urgent issue of FGM in Britain, this devastating play reveals the price some girls pay to become women.

Cuttin' It premieres at the Young Vic, London, in May 2016.

Charlene James won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright and the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play for Cuttin' It.

Dog

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

London in the 1980s: A racist English football hooligan’s relationship with his beloved pitbull terrier, Roy, gets him into trouble and changes his life.

This short one-man show takes a satirical look at the working class and the similarities between the doggedness of a terrier and the doggedness of a violent lout, ultimately bringing out the loneliness and isolation beneath. Dog premiered (under the title Pitbull) at the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, in August 1993.

Drag Act

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Drag Act is a proud and punchy monologue spoken by Rose, a fifty-two year old lesbian who can’t stand being told how she should dress. She was told by her mother that she should be more girly and feminine, and now she finds she’s being told that she’s letting down ‘the Cause’ by wearing trousers; she’s sick of people thinking she’s trying to be a man. So she’s reluctant when her new younger girlfriend Sarah insists they go to a drag club for her birthday, until she realises that among the sequins and the feathers are people just like her.

Drag Act was first presented in 1993 at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool.

Duologue

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's Duologue is a short monologue play for a female actor in which a woman reminisces movingly about her dead husband.

The play began life as a piece for television entitled All On Her Own, broadcast on BBC2 on 25 September 1968. It formed part of a series called A Touch of Venus (subtitled: ‘Women Alone’) comprising short monologues for women written by established playwrights. It was performed by Margaret Leighton and produced by Hal Burton.

It was later performed on stage at the Overground Theatre, Kingston, Surrey, in October 1974, still as All On Her Own. Rattigan then revised the text and retitled it Duologue for a production at the King’s Head Theatre, London, starring Barbara Jefford, in a double bill with The Browning Version, with its first performance on 21 February 1976.

The play is set in a large house in Hampstead, north London. Rosemary Hodge is a widow who returns from a party and, a little drunkenly, starts addressing her dead husband Gregory. Through her reflections and recriminations, she comes to a sad realisation about their relationship, her behaviour, and the nature of his death.

With its intimate, conversational style, Duologue can be seen as a forerunner to Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads series twenty years later.

Echoes  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's play Echoes is a two-hander exploring aspects of colonialism, drawing parallels between the lives of a modern-day Jihadi bride and a Victorian pioneer. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Angel.

Echoes was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 5 August 2015, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, transferring to the Arcola Theatre, London, later that year.

The story is told by two storytellers who, according to a note in the published script, 'speak directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. Tillie is a 17-year-old Victorian pioneer, while Samira, also 17, is a Muslim schoolgirl. Both are from Ipswich, but they dream of a glorious future abroad. Samira wants to help build a caliphate; Tillie, an Empire. Both are idealists; intelligent adventurers, with strong religious beliefs. Both are frustrated by societies which offer them few opportunities. And both would travel to the East, to impose their ideals upon unwilling peoples.

The premiere production was directed by Henry Naylor and Emma Butler, and was performed by Felicity Houlbrooke (as Tillie) and Filipa Bragança (as Samira).

The cast stayed the same for the subsequent world tour, until 13 September 2016, when Rachel Smyth replaced Felicity in the role of Tillie, for the shows at the Brisbane Festival and the Melbourne Fringe. In April 2017, at the 59E59 Theater in New York, Serena Manteghi joined Rachel Smyth, and took the role of Samira.

Eden

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Breda, determined that her recent weight loss will not be a wasted effort, has planned a night out with her husband, Billy. Neither can remember the last time they slept together, but Breda intends to change that.

Under the influence of alcohol, however, their date night goes awry, and they find themselves revealing far more than they had intended.

Eden premiered on the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 2001, and was later mounted on the West End and Broadway. Written as monologues for two actors, it explores the disintegration of marital intimacy in an intimate theatrical format.

Eight

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Eight is a play comprising eight monologues which together offer a state-of-the-nation group portrait of a generation growing up amidst a consumerist boom. It was first performed at Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 2 August 2008.

The eight different characters in the play (there is a ninth, Buttons, included in the published script) range in age from seventeen to their early thirties. Each of them, as Hickson writes in an introduction to the published script, is the product of 'a world in which the central value system is based on an ethic of commercial, aesthetic and sexual excess'. Millie is a jolly-hockey-sticks prostitute mourning the loss of the good old British class system. Miles is a survivor of the 7 July London Tube bombings. Danny is an ex-squaddie who makes friends in morgues. Teenager Jude finds himself attracted to an alluring older woman. André’s boyfriend has just committed suicide. Bobby is struggling to make ends meet for her two young children. Mona is trying to keep her secrets safe from prying eyes. Astrid is cheating on her boyfriend. Buttons is being released from jail tomorrow, having served ten years.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson and designed by David Lookin. The cast was Henry Peters as Danny, Simon Ginty as Jude, Michael Whitham as André, Holly McLay as Bobby, Alice Bonifacio as Mona, Solomon Mousley as Miles, Ishbel McFarlane as Millie and Gwendolen von Einsiedel as Astrid.

In each performance of this production, only four of the monologues were performed, selected by the audience. As Hickson describes in her introduction, 'When I directed the first production of the play, I offered the audience short character descriptions of all eight characters before the play began. I then asked them to vote for the four characters whom they wanted to see. As the audience entered the auditorium, all eight characters were lined up across the front of the stage – but only the four characters with the highest number of votes would perform. The other four characters would remain onstage, reminding the audience that in each choice we make we are also choosing to leave something behind.' Hickson also gives her rationale for staging the production in this way: 'One of the central characteristics of the commercial world that Eight explores is ‘choice culture’. From channel-surfing to Catch-Up TV and X-Factor voting – we are a choosy bunch, we get what we want when we want it. Eight reflects this in its set-up.'

The play was awarded a Fringe First Award and the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award.

The production transferred to Performance Space 122, New York, as part of the COIL Festival, on 6 January 2009, and Trafalgar Studios, London, on 6 July 2009.

The Encounter

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Encounter is a play by international theatre company Complicite and its artistic director Simon McBurney, inspired by the novel Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu. It was first performed at the Edinburgh International Festival on 8 August 2015, and received its London premiere at the Barbican in February 2016 before embarking on a world tour.

The play is performed by a single actor working with sound technicians to create a range of voices and aural effects conveyed to the audience via headphones. It tells the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who, in 1969, found himself lost among the people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. It was an encounter that was to change his life, as he began to explore, through the indigenous culture in which he was immersed, the limits of human consciousness. The play traces McIntyre’s journey and experiences through a constantly shifting sound world created live on stage in front of the audience.

A 'Note on the Text' in the published script explains that 'During the introduction the audience are asked to put on a set of headphones, which they then wear for the duration of the performance. Everything they hear is through these headphones. The actor uses a range of microphones that can be modified to create the voice of Loren McIntyre and other characters. The actor also creates a variety of live foley sound effects onstage, and uses loop pedals to create exterior soundscapes and the interior worlds of the characters. The performer also plays some sound and audio recordings live through their mobile phone, iPod, and various speakers. All sounds created or played onstage are picked up and relayed to the audience’s headphones through a variety of onstage microphones, one of which is binaural. Other sound is played and mixed live by two operators who in part improvise in reaction to the performer onstage.'

The Complicite production was directed and performed by Simon McBurney, co-directed by Kirsty Housley and designed by Michael Levine, with sound design by Gareth Fry with Pete Malkin.

Epic Love and Pop Songs

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s play Epic Love and Pop Songs is a two-hander about teenage friendship and the pressures of growing up. It was first performed at Pleasance Dome as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 6 August 2016, produced by Showroom.

The play's action is narrated, largely in direct address to the audience, by two sixteen-year-old characters, Doll and Ted. Doll has attitude and a pregnancy bump, while Ted – her friend, but not her boyfriend – is shy and vulnerable. It transpires that the pregnancy is Doll's fantasy, aimed partly at getting her mother's attention, partly at proving to her school friends that she's sexually active. Meanwhile, Ted's family is falling apart under the strain of coping with his sister's death, and in Doll he has found someone to love and protect. But as Doll's lie unravels, their friendship is tested to the limit.

An author's note included in the published playtext explains that 'Ted and Doll are the storytellers and this play is all about how you spin a tale. The set is negotiable, there could be a bed and a chair, a teenage bedroom from which a world is created, or nothing at all.'

The Edinburgh Fringe premiere was directed by Jamie Jackson and directed by Anna Reid, with Norah Lopez Holden as Doll and George Caple as Ted.

Finsbury Park  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Jeffreys’s play Finsbury Park is a short autobiographical monologue. It was first performed by Stephen Jeffreys as part of Paines Plough’s Come to Where I’m From at Park Theatre, London, on 6 July 2016.

The play is closely autobiographical, a series of anecdotes and recollections of Finsbury Park and Crouch End, of growing up there as a boy in the 1950s, of Arsenal games, buses, London fog and the kindness of strangers.

In her Introduction to the collection Stephen Jeffreys: Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2018), Jeffreys' wife Annabel Arden writes: 'The house Stephen grew up in, 45 Weston Park, had been acquired by his paternal grandfather in 1936, and three generations as well as many lodgers lived there in a very particular post-war austerity. It was a childhood full of eccentric characters, English humour and stoicism. His monologue Finsbury Park... captures the essence of this.'

First Date

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Sometimes friendship comes with a heavy price tag. Part of a series of short, single-voice plays, developed through consultation with young people by writers based in the north west of England. Powerful, contemporary monologues which share the struggles, courage, conflicts and joys of different characters facing difficult decisions in their lives. They offer a range of authentic, memorable voices to stimulate discussion and participatory drama work.

Fleabag

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s debut play is a comic monologue for a female performer about the impact of female objectification on one young woman.

Fleabag is a rip-roaring account of some sort of female living her sort of life. Her best friend, Boo, has been tragically killed in a road accident leaving behind their guinea pig-themed café, which is in dire economic straits. She might be willing to prostitute herself to save the café, if society didn’t deem this highly immoral. To add insult to injury, her boyfriend Harry has left her, and her conviction that he’ll be back within a fortnight is slowly waning. She could ask her sister for the money, but they’re not all that close, in part due to the demands of her family life. On the surface Fleabag may seem over-sexed, emotionally underdeveloped and narcissistic, but slowly her vulnerability emerges and some uncomfortable home truths are revealed.

Fleabag was first performed at Underbelly as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013 and produced by DryWrite, the theatre company that Waller-Bridge co-founded. It was a word-of-mouth hit garnering strong reviews and winning a Fringe First Award. It subsequently transferred to Soho Theatre in London where it enjoyed a sell-out run. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright.

For Once

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In a small, country town three boys die from a gang of four. Sid, who's left behind, is struggling to cope with his loneliness, trying effortfully to stay normal and hoping to manage the feelings of his worried parents April and Gordon.

Life, love and loss in a picture postcard town is laid bare in this heartbreaking but darkly comic play. Through a series of interweaving accounts For Once cuts to the heart of a family, and a community, turned upside down by unimaginable tragedy. For Once was Tim Price’s debut play. It premiered at the Hampstead Theatre, London on 8 July 2011.

Freak

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Anna Jordan's play Freak is a two-hander that explores female sexuality, self-image and sexual exploitation. It was first produced by Theatre503 and Polly Ingham Productions at Assembly George Square during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014 and at Theatre503, London, in September 2014.

The play's action unfolds, for most of the play's duration, in two parallel monologues delivered direct to the audience. A double bed centre stage represents separate beds belonging to the two characters, Georgie (age 30) and Leah (age 15). Georgie's boyfriend recently left her and, fed up of temping, she has retreated to her bedroom, where she drinks to excess and masturbates compulsively to daytime television. Meanwhile Leah dreams of losing her virginity and obsesses about her body image. The two characters gravitate towards each other until, in the play's final scene, their connection is more fully revealed.

The premiere production was directed by Anna Jordan and designed by Petra Hjortsberg, with Lia Burge as Georgie and April Hughes as Leah.

ghost-tag

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Rhiannon looks like a small town girl and single mother; but her nightlife as a graffiti artist means her tag (ghost) has become admired around the world. One fateful night she saves a copper's life while out tagging and wildstyling and realises she must now move on.

A Girl’s Bedroom

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

At the age of 6, a girl leaves her bedroom and family home and walks. She never stops. Until now

A Girl's Bedroom was first performed at the 2015 Galway Arts Festival, and was revived at the 2016 Galway International Arts Festival alongside two other short plays by Enda Walsh - Kitchen and Room 303 - under the collective title Rooms.

A Girl With A Book

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Nick Wood's poignant political drama A Girl with a Book is based on the true story of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafza. In 2012, gunmen stopped a bus in Pakistan and shot three young girls. Their crime? Wanting to go to school. Knowing nothing about the situation, able to offer little more than outrage, the writer is forced out from behind his desk and in the search for answers to help him tell the story of a brave young woman's fight for girls' education, but when his research uncovers attitudes at odds with his liberal convictions he has to face what he learns about himself.

Achieving international acclaim after its opening in Hamburg, A Girl with a Book e0xamines Malala's story through a series of questions, for instance, whether a middle-aged, middle-class white man could ever understand the world of a young Pakistani girl. Using quotes from Malala, the two other girls involved in the shooting and Malala's father, the writer's journey attempts to piece together the story and come to an understanding of the issues surrounding it. He speaks to members of different communities, his own wife and even imagines speaking to Malala herself. During the process Wood remains grounded in his stance as an outsider looking in, picking at the hypocrisy of how we can criticise the oppression of women in one culture but not another as he struggles with his own prejudice and privilege. He asks how a girl who wanted to go to school could become such a target.

good dog

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Arinzé Kene's good dog is monologue play that chronicles growing up in a multicultural community in the first decade of the twenty-first century. It was first produced by tiata fahodzi in association with Watford Palace Theatre, receiving its world premiere at Watford Palace Theatre, London, on 17 February 2017, before touring the UK.

The play is set in inner-city London in the early noughties. It follows a young black schoolboy, known only as 'Boy', as he chronicles his teenage years: the events which led him from a responsible but naïve outlook to a mood of bitter disillusionment that peaks around the time of the riots that took place in several cities across England in 2011, sparked by unrest in north London. Bullied at school, neglected at home, and conscious of the violence in his multicultural neighbourhood, the boy is plagued by the moral quandary of whether feeling good is a simple question of doing good. The ‘good dog' is supposed to always get its rewards - so why does this good boy never get a shiny new bike from his mum, but instead a beating-up in the playground?

The premiere production was directed by Natalie Ibu and designed by Amelia Jane Hankin. It was performed by Anton Cross.

The Good Thief

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Good Thief is a monologue play that recounts the misfortunes of an unnamed petty criminal whose conscience punishes him when he becomes involved in a bungled kidnap.

The play was first performed under the title The Light of Jesus by Fly By Night Theatre Company at the City Arts Centre, Dublin, on 18 April 1994. It was directed by Conor McPherson and performed by Kevin Hely.

The Good Thief was subsequently performed as a Loopline production, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival on 4 October 1994. It was performed by Garrett Keogh and directed by Conor McPherson.

The play was awarded the Stewart Parker Award, an annual award for the best Irish debut play.

Gorgeous

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Considers Victorian values and how they affect young women today.

Harry's Christmas

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

It is a few days until Christmas and Harry is waiting for someone to be in touch, for an old lover to have a drink with him, for a friend to show up. But as the big day comes, he falls into lonely and isolated despair.

A dark and searing portrait of one man’s solitude and its repercussions, Harry’s Christmas examines society’s hypocrisy at the time of year when emotional pressure is at its highest.

Harry’s Christmas premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in December 1985.

Hood in the Wood

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

'Mother's place is safe and sound'. Yes thought little Red, 'but sometimes very boring too!' Granny's house deep in the middle of the woods seemed far more enticing – but what about the dangers that lurked there? The darkness? The creatures of the night? And the famous wolf? Did he really exist?

Howie the Rookie

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O’Rowe’s breakthrough play Howie the Rookie is a wild urban odyssey through a nightmare Dublin as two youths recount their intertwined stories of one fateful night. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 12 February 1999 (previews from 10 February).

The play is formed of two monologues delivered by characters that share a surname and intertwined destinies. The first monologue is spoken by 'The Howie Lee', a young man who gets dragged into a bizarre feud of honour against 'The Rookie Lee' – a feud that spirals out of control and ends in The Howie Lee's own personal tragedy. The second monologue belongs to The Rookie Lee, who has problems of his own. Massively in debt to terrifying gangland leader The Ladyboy for killing his precious Siamese fighting fish, he steels himself for a hideous revenge. That is until he is championed from an unlikely quarter by his onetime enemy.

In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe acknowledges the influence on the play of Conor McPherson’s monologue play This Lime Tree Bower (Bush Theatre, 1996) as well as Samuel Beckett’s stream-of-consciousness novel Molloy (first published in English in 1955), which similarly features two interconnected interior monologues.

The Bush Theatre production was directed by Mike Bradwell and designed by Es Devlin, with Aidan Kelly as The Howie Lee and Karl Shiels as The Rookie Lee.

The play won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1999.

The play was revived in June 2013 by Landmark Productions at Project Arts Centre, directed by Mark O’Rowe, with both characters played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. The production transferred to Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, as part of the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before returning in 2014 to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin; the Barbican, London; and BAM, New York.

Illusions

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Love and death, loyalty and betrayal, truth and fiction, this darkly beguiling comedy takes us through a hall of mirrors.

That's it, a little story.

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.