The Regina Monologues
By Rebecca Russell & Jenny Wafer, directed by Keely Beresford
10th – 12th July 2017
I hope most of our members had the opportunity to see our Festival play. I went on the 12th of July when the house was only slightly short of full. I’ll start at the end. The applause went on so long that it demanded the return of the cast to the stage. On it went after they had left the scene until the director, Keely Beresford, realised that they could scarcely hear it upstairs in the dressing room, so she went to get them. Back they came and on it went for a while longer. I think we might conclude that the audience thought it was pretty good!
The play began with a scene devised by Keely with Maggie Riuz who played a Spanish maid charged with trying to keep the ‘women’, their clothing, shoes and paraphernalia in some sort of order. She wasn’t too pleased about it, but she was charming and humorous. I wasn’t quite sure that this role had a direct bearing on the play unless it served in part to excuse a somewhat rudimentary set. But then there’s nothing wrong with a rudimentary set provided it doesn’t interfere with the essence of the play. It didn’t. Its other effect was to start us off on a note of relative levity in stark contrast to the concluding state of things. As every performance evolved we were only too aware of how disturbing the play is in its development, just as the writers intend.
We all recognised society today in Bethany Heath’s visceral portrayal of Kathy, dashing about exchanging texts with her friends, talking about her sex life, but finally having to tell the boyfriend she loves to get lost. Many in the audience were close to tears at the end when, having been forced into marriage by the misfortunes of her father, she related with horrifying frankness how she has been raped and physically ruined by that fat horrible, florid old man on their wedding night.
Sue Ross as Cathy was wonderfully sympathetic as the honest and devoted first wife who, unable to conceive, is discarded for the scornful Annie. Jude Claybourne’s Annie gloated over her gin and basked in the power she held over Cathy. Her complete transformation from scornful mistress into a drunken abandoned woman made us pity her as she too was shrugged off.
Tina Gaisford-Waller as Jane started off as the credulous ingénue, simpering and giggly, basking in the knowledge that her man had had two wives already, but that he knew as soon as he saw her that she was the one he’d really been looking for. Gradually he loses interest in her of course and leaves her to her agonising labour alone and abandons her after the loss of her son.
Tina Scudder was very good as the lonely Anna who finds the ogre on an internet dating site. I wasn’t quite ready for the possibility of her being born a boy! Juanita Chedzoy was exactly right as the smug older Katherine who knows how to manipulate things to her advantage. (She’s already planning to marry another old man with a view to another legacy at the end). The actors used the levels to vary the action, walking about when their turn came as the other characters remained still. The play depends entirely on the quality and balance of each performance. When they talked about each other they looked across at the target of their comment. Jude was very good at looking sideways at Sue and exulting in the fact that she knows nothing about her affair with her husband (though actually, sadly, of course she does).
In the final scene (after Beth had shown us the anguish of the rape victim with tremendous poignancy), they all walked off in turn, dropping their wedding ring into a wine glass before leaving the stage. It was an excellent festival play. To see seven women on stage was brilliant. Keely was faithful to the script. Her tight, judicious direction was slowed somewhat for me by the length of the musical interludes, but as they are part of the script that is hardly a criticism. The performers won the acoustic challenge of The Silk Mill. Though we lost a few words we understood every detail of the bruised lives of these modern women who each in turn had the misfortune to encounter a serial abuser of womankind. Whether the historical resonance seems relevant or not this was a triumph for FDC.