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Fringe Online 2020

Low Down

Directed by Jessica Mensah, Alice  Merivale plays Flo. The work’s introduced by Barry McStay producer for national etheatr. Available indefinitely. Please donate.


There’s been some ingenious and heart-warming theatre responses to the current crises, but new theatre, specially devised written filmed and delivered like the title of this play, is rare indeed.

It’s an astonishing feat to realize this warm, funny, poignant and uplifting play was written produced and posted in a fortnight. Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Judy Upton rather describes the process as well as content of this 16-minute monologue. And if you think isolation’s a small room like the one this monologue’s delivered in to begin with, wait till you see what Upton’s character can manage.

An exciting new theatrical voice in the 1990s with a string of six plays at the Royal Court (three), Birmingham and elsewhere, Upton diversified into TV and radio Indeed her fine radio drama The Bulbul Was Singing premiered on Radio 4 last August, focusing on a British woman who returns from fighting with the Kurdish Women’s army (KLA) to find herself arrested and what she does about it. Upton’s last stage play was a revival of her 1998 Confidence in 2018 at Southwark. There’s a real hamster in it. Hold that thought.

Barry McStay producer for national etheatr introduces, Jessica Mensah directs, Alice  Merivale plays Flo. Flo’s the lonely northern second-term-at-uni who’s giving us an upbeat TED talk about constructing sturdy cardboard boxes. In between she’s angsting about her experiences of uni. She’s had it tough up north. Not only pupils but teachers mock you for putting your hand up, and you do well to escape brain damage.

So being the first in your family to go to uni brings everyone a thrill, but in the second week, Flo wonders if she exists. This second term’s worse. And she can’t afford the rail fare home when all the yah types are collected in 4 x 4s or can breezily train it down in first. Flo though has a plan. She gives another TED talk first.

When we next see Flo a hamster features, there’s an unexpected denouement. Merivale’s performance exudes acute timing, especially shading from angst-funny to a nano-second of desolation.  When you think of the turnaround, it’s all the more remarkable this production looks so inevitable with technical qualities making it a candidate for TV, which it deserves.

It’s a heartwarming monologue that says much about isolation contrasting with real solitude and acute loneliness. Highly recommended it’s a unique take on the isolation foisted on all of us. Do see it.