One-Hander Shows: Yay or Nay?

It’s been a while since my last post, apologies! Life has been super busy these last few weeks; I just started my new job which is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time! I’ve just been waiting for everything to calm down a bit so I can get back to it!

Which brings me to this week’s blog: One-Hander Shows: Yay or Nay?
I have always admired people who are capable of catching an audience’s attention simply by standing alone. There is nothing quite like the intimacy of watching a solo performer.

Nonetheless, this sense of intimacy and exposure has the potential to highlight a bad one-hander show. Mark Shenton discussed this in a recent issue of The Stage, which got me thinking: How do I feel about one-hander shows?

Generally I find this medium very endearing. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, not just in shows but in real life. Due to the personal element of a solo performance, a lot more is revealed, so you tend to learn more about the intricate elements of a specific culture or economic background- or whatever. A specific production I saw recently springs to mind: A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing. Due to its Irish Catholic base, it really resonated with my Irish heritage and my feelings toward the restrictions endured by my ancestors and those who still suffer today.

I can’t help but feel how Shenton did when he discussed Ben Rimalower’s one-hander show: 

“This show was sometimes deeply uncomfortable to listen to, but there’s also something remarkably healing in the personal honesty that Rimalower brings to telling this story of his own chronic dishonesty.”

Similarly, I felt that the ‘girl’ in A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing was revealing herself after years of abuse and feeling completely worthless. At times it was uncomfortable, but it felt like a necessary journey rather than an arrogant exercise of self-indulgence.

I unfortunately missed Iphigenia in Splott when it came to Bristol, but I heard some fantastic things. Shenton described it as: 

“A short but bruising play, fired up by the piercing intensity of Sophie Melville’s performance as Effie.”

This, like A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, sounds like a one-hander play done right. On the other hand, there are plenty that can only be described as indulgent and cringe-worthy (The scene in Friends comes to mind: “Chapter One: My First Period”)

Shenton used If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me by the Young Vic as an example of a “personal vanity project”. I cannot form an opinion of this piece as I haven’t seen it, however, it is this general stigma of one-hander shows that can sometimes influence my decision to avoid them. After all, with less distractions and only one actor- the script has to be pretty damn good. 

I suppose it’s a gamble you have to take.

I enjoy watching spoken word performances, which I suppose are a similar form. If you’re more of a poetry fan, then I would recommend going to see some. You get the same honesty but in a different way; I think it’s more free and passionate than a traditional scripted monologue. Poetry can have that ‘freeing’ affect on you. 

If you’re interested in going to see some local spoken word, Fat Girls Don’t Dance is on at The Bristol Old Vic next week. Check it out!

Don’t forget to follow and tweet me @tesshenderson94  

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3 thoughts on “One-Hander Shows: Yay or Nay?

  1. Generally, I think I am more wary if I know it’s a one-actor play, but I’ve been to four – Jigsy, Dark Vanilla Jungle, Bitch Boxer and Iphigenia – and they have all been excellent: strong scripts, captivating performances. Sophie Melville was so good in Iphegenia, but Gemma Whelan’s wrenching turn in the very bleak Dark Vanilla Jungle was incredible.

    This upcoming show looks very interesting too: https://www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/diary-hounslow-girl/

    Liked by 1 person

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