‘You trying to get some semblance of what’s going on here?’ strikes me as the ideal way to summarise The Polycephaly Monologues. In the form of three separate monologues, it was an explosion of philosophical thought which was at times engaging, but often confusing. I have a general rule when it comes to theatre: if the title of a show is unintelligible, it should be approached with caution. The Polycephaly Monologues is no exception.
The first monologue, performed by Robbie Fraser, began with an exaltation of plums – it was certainly an intriguing start. As the monologue continued, I became unsure of what I was watching: the manifestation of pain in a man whose wife has left him, or the ramblings of a lunatic? Perhaps it was both – the ambiguity serves the philosophical nature of the show well. I was captivated by the energy Fraser brought to the stage and I was impressed with how the actor handled the difficult role. My attention did begin to waver towards the end of this first monologue, and I think that was a flaw in the writing. There is only so long an audience can remain engaged with an incoherent stream of consciousness.
My personal highlight of the performance came in the form of the second monologue. Hannah Jacques plays a woman who has been betrayed by her husband, and she examines this event as she applies her lipstick. This was a more tangible part of the show and I found it more accessible – the occurrence of philosophical musings whilst you get ready in the morning are almost a fact of life. Moreover, this was where some real comedy came into the show, and I wish all the monologues had been a little more akin to the second.
To conclude this triad of eccentricity, there was Alec McQuarrie and some reflections on cranberries. The final monologue resembled the first and, as a result, my judgement is similar. McQuarrie was an engaging performer who did well to handle some slightly pretentious writing. I must say the surprise paddling pool, which entered during this stretch of the show, was testament to the well-thought out staging. I appreciated all the small details which had gone into the set design, including the rubber gloves hanging from the ceiling.
With a brilliant cast and clever staging, it would be difficult to argue that The Polycephaly Monologues was a not well-executed show. The writing, however, left a little to be desired. I left the Pilch feeling underwhelmed by a show which, at its lowest points, could be described as nonsensical and self-indulgent.