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Gail Louw presentation – Monologues in Stage Plays

by on November 18, 2018

Review of Gail Louw presentation – Monologues in Stage Plays

Gail’s preferred style, monologues, seemed both tricky and yet practical for, as she said, writing for one actor was a great deal cheaper than several and, with Arts Council grants mostly available up to £15,000, more productive. Her golden rule was to know clearly “who is talking and to whom”. For if an actor is simply narrating a story, it is almost certain to lack the drama of a conflict between characters. And, she added, conflict is vital to retaining an audience’s interest.

Each of us was asked in turn to read marked sections of her play “Blonde Poison”, with Gail explaining various aspects of the writing that made the piece work as a whole. The story centres on Stella Goldschlag, vain, Jewish, who, surviving through looking Aryan in Berlin during the Second World War, is eventually betrayed and tortured. To save her parents from the camps, she turns into an informer, sending some thousands of uncaptured Jews (“U-boats” in Gestapo slang) to their death. In the play she is in her early 70s, looking back on her life and talking to her beloved parents as she remembers them.

The play makes use of time shifts, of songs which have dark overtones:  (‘Toot, Toot, Tootsie! Goodbye’ and ‘Me and My Shadow’), and of devices such as a letter from her daughter not read until the very end, and of a journalist due to interview her, to ramp up the tension. The play has so far run in eight countries and Gail has found herself surprised that the monster she believed she had created was also viewed with a little empathy by some audiences.

Some of the participants had brought monologues and others were asked to write something during the tea break. These were all read out in turn by their authors, revealing a very wide range of subject matter and style but all, as Gail remarked, interesting.

It struck me that writing effective monologues must be one of the hardest writing styles, requiring as it does to put all the elements of drama into one voice. But for that reason it is also very useful practice. Gail exhorted us to continue practice.

“Blonde Poison” is due to play in London in April 2019 with Jane Asher.

Crispin Ellison

 

 

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