at Warwick Arts Centre, 6th October 2010
Monologuing can be a very effective mode of storytelling, allowing us deep perspectives into characters’ lives and feeding information through a subjective mouthpiece. In Paul Meade’s production of Little Gem, however, the constant stream of monologues seems generally tiring and the play lacks overall focus and the narrative is tedious.
Much like Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should, the play is concerned with the differences and similarities between generations. Nineteen-year-old Amber has to cope with the consequences of pregnant, her mother Lorraine learns again how to act in a relationship and her mother Kay mothers her offspring while worrying about various sexual problems she’s having. The interplay between characters is cleverly unravelled, as we are slowly fed information and hear the story played out.
Murphy’s text shows that essentially each generation is faced with the same problems, and as all three women have experience of young mothers their apparent distance suddenly seems a lot less defined. The humour injected allows for some exploration of how we view those in different generations. One particularly funny storyline sees Kay questioning her recently purchased green sex toy, aptly named “Kermit”.
Although there are some wonderfully funny moments and poignant moments which follow on from them, the pace of the play is frustrating. At times, it feels like we are being talked at for twenty minutes about a five-minute event, but at others we speed through time without stopping for air. The monologues sprawl somewhat, without any clear direction, and often have no narrative drive.
The cast manages to bring resonance to the script and allow the stories to be somewhat engaging. Genevieve Hulme Beaman as Amber shows a naive and confused teenager, and Anita Reeves is brusque and honest as Kay. Neili Conroy, unfortunately, is slightly weaker as Lorraine, and seems to make some odd choices in her performance, which don’t quite ring true.
Alice Butler’s set seems slightly too small for the Warwick Arts Centre stage, and perhaps this is why the intimacy of the play’s text doesn’t come across here. This seems to be a play suitable for a studio space. Although funny, Murphy never really allows her play to stand on its own two feet. Where there is drama, it is swamped by background information, meaning we never truly engage. A clever concept perhaps, but one which leads us never to truly empathise.