Fringe Online 2021
Grace O’Keefe and Erin Holland comprise Queens of Cups. Here they present ten New Moon Monologues. Individual writers and actors are iterated throughout. Till April 30th then on YouTube permanently.
Next month’s event will be live-streamed from The Space Theatre
This company’s been a real discovery over the past three months, and they’ve only been going since October 2020.
Queens of Cups are born of a wonderfully off-beat collective of two, Grace O’Keefe and Erin Holland. With seven theatre degrees between them, make no mistake, their YouTube presentation – you can just go and access it now and stop reading – is a very professional product: serious talent, writing and thinking has gone into it.
O’Keefe and Holland have thrown open Queens of Cups to a monthly competition, based round the moon itself – New Moon Monologues. The YouTube’s just 69 minutes (last month was just 46, but previous ones are over an hour), and everything presented pithily, sketch-like or perfectly-formed.
After you’ve finished, you’ll hardly believe this brevity contains the extraordinary riches within. I’ve seen many showcases: none are quite as brilliantly compacted as this. The nearest are the ongoing Royal Court Living Newspapers, and they’re ingeniously building-specific whereas the NMMs rove anywhere, if distanced, with actors and writers. I wrote previously ‘it’s like entering an intricate warehouse where bales of wildly coloured silks suddenly cascade down all around you.’ Add shot silk…
Erin Holland Come Clean
Each founder takes it in turn to take the first spot for a state-of-the-month piece. It’s not unlike (again) the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper series, now in its fifth edition. Erin Holland’s take ‘Come clean, Boris, come clean’ deliberately delivered though it could even have been rapped. It’s good the way it is, we take it in. ‘Who will our next clown be?’ Holland asks pointedly. Footage is spliced with evocative shots of walls covered in hearts of loved ones who’ve died as recently as April this year, and there’s a last lingering shot to point this up
Bren Gosling Paradise in the Late 90s
Performed with intimate leisurely panache by P.K. Taylor we’re in a kitchen. He’s calling out for his partner ‘His Maj’ who won’t come out of the bathroom. There’s brief blackouts to jump time. There’s a beautiful checkout boy everyone’s in lust with. But of course Maj and his man are invisible. The title’s increasingly invoked as a place of – as Denton Welch titled his 1945 novel – ‘in youth is pleasure’; and we’re in a yellow filter of memory (neo-Romantic 1940s painter/writer Welch would approve!), still in the kitchen. Back then paradise was clubbing adroitly on the dole, avoiding homophobes.
Pushing forty he’s a cleaner in. a sex cinema. Through the narrator we’re given a terrific guide to it too, and there’s a few reveals. Getting the clientele out of the toilets banging on the door he meets the love of his life. Back in natural lighting there’s a wry coda. At nearly 14 minutes one of the longest, this is a slow-burn cutting-queer narrative, detailed, heartening and melancholy.
Cerys Bradley Irregular
Eleanor Page disarmingly narrates this unfolding piece starting over mild anxiety when her periods become irregular, heavier. There’s a reason. She lays an egg. Then there’s other signals. You’ll have to see this hatch.
Colin Mattox April #2
Adrienne Knight’s sitting back wedding dress on her lap, cancelling her wedding. Her character muses energetically on people’s obsession with wedding. As if marriage isn’t more important. Why come down from such a high? Knight’s funny, confiding and authoritative.
John Busser A Long Overdue Talk With Henry
Pippa Winslow’s Gail is also in a kitchen, and like Knight’s she’s an American character underlining the transatlantic nature of the Queen of Cups collective, and its reach. And who’s Henry, and why does he deserve a pummelling with a hammer, even after he’s died? He had his breakfast, his bacon his toast his coffee and his coronary in that order….’
Henry’s total neglect is extreme. Winslow’s sudden outbursts, banging on an upturned bucket with a ladle, get more extreme too. Why’s Gail convinced she knows what’s under there? A sharp take on grief and several kinds of loss, including that ongoing conversation.
Emelia Hutchinson Salt
Hannah France sitting in dungarees recalls her character’s sister plucking eyebrows and rosaries, then her scalp. A teen into Catholic self-harm vanishes into a convent, but six years on there’s a meeting over fish, chips, salt. There’s a sea, a baptism in reverse. France really has the measure of this quietly intense, imagistically precise and poignant piece with a moving end.
Queen of Cups has form with Catholic monologues, corners of that experience we never see.
T. J. Lewis’ My Honeypots is flagged up (at the end too, in review) as slotted in here but doesn’t for some reason appear.
Amy Millward Eight
Rebecca Banatvala reminds us it takes eight years to replace your body’s cells. Familiar? It’s in some ways takes up the conclusion of last month’s Seven Years to the Day written by Noga Flaishon.
This work though goes very differently into reverse, increasing self-disgust and self-harm as we draw towards trauma. It’s visceral, mordantly funny – after we’re down to four years, the narrator recalls a uni friend extolling her powers on Linked-In; a friend she’d not choose now, but has out of habit. ‘Because we were once friends.’ And who has a tactless way of mentioning people. It occasions another literal wound.
And there’s a hint of Ovidian transformation. In Banatvala’s hands Eight emerges as a dark, troubling excoriation that you know travels forward by going back, into eight years of damage, of the fall-out of skin.
Rachael Carnes Waterfall
We’re back in the U.S. at the end of a freshman year. Daniela Hernandez-Pujigaki’s addressing a clever articulate young man who stops her watching ospreys. Because of where she is now, there’s a connection she can still make. Poignant
Jamie Lakritz Disconnected
We’re in a lit sitting room. A.J. Deane’s a heart surgeon recalling he’d forgotten to put out the bins as he’s taking the rubbish from the calcined heart of a man. He remembers his wife Gemma. He can perform al complex forms of surgery, but not put the duvet into its cover. Recalling his first death under the knife and the reaction of the senior surgery. ‘Stop seeing the patient, stop seeing the person. It’s like confession… They’re either renewed, or…’
How to react though when its your wife whose bodies confesses distress? Go into automatic. But despite her recovery that old lesson has kicked in for good. Or have the bins corrected a heartbeat somewhere?
A superb study in traumatised detachment taking its toll, delivered by Deane with measured authority, edged with epiphany.
Grace O’Keefe gives us a brief upbeat outro song ‘I’m Sorry’. O’Keefe’s and Holland’s signature is song and lyric and it works beautifully. And there’s a development. Next month’s event will be live-streamed from The Space Theatre. These showcase productions are literally unmissable, and they’re free.