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Psycho. Drama.

A play about a play, Matt Wilkinson's monologue Psychodrama is as witty as it is perplexing.

Photo: The Other Richard




★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Never For Ever, Kentish Town
Thu 10 June - Sat 3 July 7pm

It was via a large door, easily overlooked, that I descended into a dimly lit basement to see a play starring a woman and a knife. The room is small, even for fringe theatre standards, and the seating uncomfortable — but this suits the atmosphere of the play well-enough. Psychodrama is a play about a play, a window into the life of a forty-something actress as she retells her experience auditioning for the stage adaptation of the 1960 film Psycho. If you're one of the first to arrive you'll be literally just out of spitting distance, with the front row the requisite two metres away from the action. Whatever happens, you're in this for the duration. Luckily, time will fly as Emily Bruni flexes her astounding range and delivers Matt Wilkinson's killer script with nothing more than her black converse, low-backed stool and piercing stare as props. Thankfully, for a venue this size, the set is minimalist in the extreme; brought to life only by the lighting and expert sound design. Gareth Fry's score is diverse and energetic, providing an integral scaffolding that helps to shape the production's character and ultimately deliver the narrative. 

We are listening to the rapid and implacable stream of consciousness — coherent, structured, and funny, yes; but also organic and fluent.

The monologue is fast-paced and filled with nuance, metaphor, and a lot of humour. Having seen the play, it feels like it could be no other way. We are listening to the rapid and implacable stream of consciousness — coherent, structured, and funny, yes; but also organic and fluent. We are given the distinct impression that this is the narrator post-rationalising events, telling a story to herself as much as the small audience that surround the stage. Indeed, the play's title "Psychodrama" refers to a method for gaining insights into one's life through acting. Central to this idea is self-presentation; both in terms of one's own self-image, and the expectations and preferences of others. The monologue, when seen in this context, offers a window to both. Bruni tells the story of how she met magnetising theatre director Peter through the lens of a police interview and an audition, but often finds herself falling into intimate details about her own insecurities and self-perceptions. It is this familiar internal tension that makes the play accessible to all, providing a solid vehicle with which to drive home the plot.

Photo: The Other Richard
Emily Bruni delivers a compelling monologue at Never For Ever, Kentish Town.

The fragmented narrative, unreliable narrator, and references to the film Psycho means that this play takes a while to digest, but that doesn't mean for one second you are not involved nor entirely transfixed on Bruni and the events as they are told. As the rather ominous tag line of the play concludes, a "Knife, by Stanley" enters the audience's radar quickly. We know who gets stabbed, and with what, but the plot is so much more than a whodunnit. Instead, we experience the recollections of a complex and intertwining sequence of events. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the final scene. Here, the last details emerge slowly and softly; the lights cut and the implications echo around the minds of the audience. London is no stranger to plays adapted from the American classics, but Matt Wilkinson has delivered a sophisticated and twisted take on the genre that left me a little wonderstruck and certainly wanting more. 

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