Kings Cross Theatre, January 28


Claudia Shnier. Photos. Clare Hawley.

It could seem a stream-of-consciousness ramble, but it’s not. It’s a finely calibrated monologue about one’s sense of self. Lady Grey talks about primary school “show-and-tell sessions”, and in a way Will Eno’s 40-minutte play is show-and-tell made into a piece of theatre – or perhaps all theatre is a show-and-tell, anyway.

The little girl in the story has nothing to offer at her show-and-tell except herself, stripped to her core. As was clear when Red Line presented another of Eno’s monologues, Thom Paine (based on nothing), in 2020, the American loves dealing in essences, but wrapping them in flimsy gauzes of extraneous information – a more accurate reflection of the nature of life than most playwrights dare to depict.

Of course the pioneer of what Eno attempts with these solo pieces – including a very short and highly engaging one that opened this show, My Theatre Comes Home Different (starring Bayley Prendergast, co-directed by Zac Bush and Sophia Bryant) – is Beckett, Eno sharing the master’s desire to distil rather than embellish. If he is not as darkly funny as Beckett, nor is he as austere.

This Jolly Good Company production, directed by Bush and staring Claudia Shnier as Lady Grey, is part of a mini-festival of plays presented by up-and-coming theatre makers at Kings Cross Theatre, and perhaps relative inexperience accounts for the creators trying too hard to make the piece work, rather than just letting it happen. Bush and Shnier had the smarts and the courage to choose this play, but then didn’t trust it to work without busying it up. Were Shnier softer more often, the pace more varied (and definitely slower on occasion), the lighting lower and the character less mobile, the text would come into sharper focus. Shnier would inhabit the character more fully if she caressed and tantalised us more and assailed us less; was more in tune with Zac Saric’s sound design, which surrounds the work in an aural mist, deepening the enigmas in the shadows of the words.

Ultimately the play is a statement of the deep truth that we are all alone and adrift in the universe, and that evidence to the contrary is merely cosmetic. A sad, grim and very Beckettian outlook.