Anything But (A One-Woman Play)

Wed 16th – Sat 19th May 2012

reviews

Lai Lin Yeoh

at 01:34 on 17th May 2012

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"BLOOMIN' LATECOMERS" scribbled in big block letters- greets you as you walk into the theatre. It makes you feel a little guilty, even though you aren't late. Already you immediately hear Agnes' voice and it dawns upon you- that what you are about to watch is a tale of a very, very introspective, opinionated young woman.

Anything but (a One-Woman Play) is a monologue (written by Footlights Mark Fiddaman and Lucien Young) given by Agnes, a plump and messy young woman (played by Abi Tedder) who tells the tale of her father's funeral party; a tale which ends in disaster and some very important conclusions on life.

The characterization of Agnes was thoughtfully crafted. At first she appears stodgy and obnoxious while prodding about the finger foods, but then slowly starts to grow on the audience. They get to know her better as she provides her richly personal account of events. It is one which is witty, intelligent, proud and clumsy all at the same time; but in style it is strikingly earnest and true, making her easy to empathize with. The play starts out with the audience laughing at her, but as the tale progresses, they take her side as she confronts her evil stepmother and at the end of it, they are laughing with her. This was well played on the part of Tedder, who manipulated Agnes' emotions and expressions particularly well as the story progressed.

The plot carried a simple-to-grasp but strong message: that living is a messy affair and it always will be. The climax of the play being the house set on fire (which was soon doused out with nobody hurt), it did not have to be sophisticated to capture big themes of friendship, forgiveness, love and growing up. It was also flavourfully peppered with several anecdotes of "key moments" in Agnes' life which confronted childish predicaments like sex ed, "what I'd do if I were rich" and "where do babies come from", thoughts which made her even more easy to identify with. The title, too, proved to be a clever one. Although played solely by Tedder, it was anything but a one-woman play; throughout the monologue, Agnes held conversations with her evil stepmother Carol and best friend Jason, drawing them into the story and reflecting on the complexities of human relationships. The title also brought out the most important relationship in the play- of that between Agnes and her father, recalling the "happy blurry memory" she had of him singing her to sleep for a special treat when she was a child.

The set and use of media was minimal, simple and allowed the focus to be kept deservingly on Agnes. The projection of child-like sketches of "Jason", "the crushed snail" and "Carol" helped to illustrate the tale with a good degree of added humour. The voice-over of Agnes' thoughts on accounts where she wanted to hold back on saying what she thought due to rudeness or the embarrassing nature of its content also helped to add to her vivid characterization, portraying her as a honest but loveable loudmouth.

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Anything but (A One-Woman Play) would be a pleasure to read, but was even better played and watched. Abi Tedder has to be given full credit for delivering an engaging monologue for an hour. It was short and sweet- any longer than an hour of dry British humour would have been a bit too draggy. What made the play was the characterization of Agnes; at the end of the night, the audience felt like they had made a friend.

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Bara Golanova

at 02:26 on 17th May 2012

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Though "Anything But (A One-Woman Play)" starts off as a purely comedic act, it soon becomes clear that it is a lot more than just a good laugh for the end of another day.

The whole play revolves around Agnes' (Abi Tedder) account of the funeral of her father, who used to be a known jazz musician. Eventually, the story shifts from the event itself to a rather broader account of the story of a twenty-nine year old woman who "has never had a boyfriend", is known for her clumsiness and feels like she's not a prodigy at anything, except eating a whole baguette without chewing. It develops into a rather disenchanted remembrance of what kind of a parent her father was, but primarily includes Agnes' hilariously funny observations and slight mishaps.

Being on stage for a full hour, and being there alone with no props except for a chair, may sound like a bit too much for an amateur, or a professional to handle. However, Tedder took up her role brilliantly, capturing the audience's attention the whole way through. Using her charisma, gestures and character and bringing in recordings of her own voice and drawings on the background scene, she successfully pulled all of this together and made it into a memorable performance. Tedder managed to embrace her role, making Agnes a very likable person with a somewhat odd, yet funny sense of humour, but also a person who, you would soon discover, had their troubles as well.

The play changed between moments in which the audience was roaring with laughter to those in which it was piercingly silent. Tedder succeeded in the portrayal of the dramatic part of her character, namely concerning the relationship with her father though this was properly emphasized more towards the end of the act. This underlying emotional account set the performance apart from most other comedy plays. Still, the funny bits were those that stood out most, with stories ranging from wine tasting or sitting on snails, to a musical performance under the stage name "Motherfolker". All of the jokes were put forth in an effortless and uniquely charming manner, with them drawing towards quite a surprising ending.

Overall, Anything But (A One-Woman Play) is definitely a must-see. The Footlights team have yet again proven that they are capable of reaching a high level in comedy, this time by combining oddness, sadness and hilarious jokes into what turns out to be an extraordinary act.

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