Bernadette Cremin tells tales about her Altered Egos
Marian Cleary and Trish Wheatley review this new outing for six women with untidy lives
Bernadette Cremin has brought her Altered Egos to the New Venture Theatre, Brighton. This follows its preview as a work-in-progress at Brighton Fringe 2010 where it was runner-up in the Latest Award for Best Literature Performance.
Demonstrating her on-going transition from performance poet to performer and actor, Cremin delivers the six monologues which make up the show with control and emotional validity. This is testament to the development of the piece itself. This process can be seen in part through Cremin’s blog published on DAO and written while she was part of the Arts-Council-Funded New Voices Brighton project which ran during Autumn 2011. Here the evolution of the characters which are now on show in this short run can be examined through her discussion regarding her poetic and dramatic vision while working with Lewes Live Literature under the direction of Mark Hewiitt.
The monologues tell the ‘tales of six untidy lives’ and take the audience through a range of states and moods. The individual pieces hang together through themes of male domination and female perseverance. Energy levels rise and fall as each woman elucidates her response to her unique but potentially universal situation and predicament. The range of comedy and tragedy gives a shape to what could have been merely six separate and unrelated pieces, as does the merging of recorded extracts from the different monologues which play between each change. This effect also hints at the reality of the cacophony of thought by which ego, self and memory is played out in our minds.
Cremin uses simple costumes and props to distil the essence of each gripping character. There is Sophie, endlessly covering her hands with her sleeves while clutching a book entitled ‘Destroyed’. Tina wears a pink Nike hoody and velour tracksuit bottoms and clutches her mobile phone as if it were her talisman. Such small details are the swift brush strokes of characterisation which then allow the audience to be absorbed into the complexity of language Cremin delivers, shifting from dramatic speech to poetry and back with ease and fluidity.
In this regard, while the theatrical elements stayed in our minds, lines resonated and poetic imagery created another visual layer. This is testament to Cremin’s reputation as an accomplished poet. For Sophie, her thoughts were about the ‘mug rings’ and the assortment of bedroom furniture representing the ‘us between him and me’. Trudy, who provides a lively opener to the show, reveals her complexity while remaining witty – and strangely likeable, despite her spiteful, grade-A, caustic language. Conversely, the pre-interval character, is mumbling and at times barely comprehensible as she lies vulnerable on the stage yet leaves the audience haunted with the repeating phrase, “sending me back to the chemical circus.”
Although unpolished, the lighting is used to great effect, particularly for the most captivating character, Jean, whose bitterness as she tells her tale is reinforced as the shrinking focus finally illuminates just the supressed anger on her face.
If you are in Brighton over the next two days, this show is well worth seeing in order to witness first-class writing and characterisation. If you are further afield, you can catch Cremin’s work on YouTube.
Altered Egos is at New Venture Theatre, Bedford Place, Brighton on Friday 2nd March and Saturday 3rd March at 7.45. Tickets £8 and £10. The show then moves to the Eastbourne Festival, Little Theatre, Cavendish School for one night on Tuesday 17th April 2011.