Dear Beryl is a work in progress piece from The Moonlighters Collective, presented as part of Command Fringe Festival, a line-up of online performances being showcased over one weekend.
Social media influencer Lyla (Amy Allenby) is on the brink of creating the life she’s always dreamed of when she finds herself trapped in a prison of sorts and unclear as to how she has got there. Also present is the mysterious Ruth (Hannah Roze-Lewis) who is clearly from a different social circle and apparently unaware of the workings of the modern world. Lyla wants answers to her current predicament, but Ruth appears determined to keep what little knowledge she may have of their current situation to herself.
As Lyla explains the marketplace nature of current technology to Ruth, where everything comes at a price or trade-off, she is compelled to come to terms with the fact this may not be a social reality programme after all. In a world where many of us have become reliant on technology to survive, what do you do when it is no longer there? And in the constant battle to overcome the poverty trap, what is the price of life?
Allenby embodies the forceful and forward nature of the young social entrepreneur perfectly, exuding a faux positivity which she believes will help her overcome anything and everything; Roze-Lewis in delightful contrast, offers a timid and withdrawn character who is perhaps torn between holding on to what she knows to keep herself relevant in the conversation or just doesn’t know how to tell Lyla the horror of what is coming next. What a cliff-hanger to leave me on – I want to know what happens next!
For such a short excerpt, both characters are strongly drawn and recognisable with an intensity that called to mind Sartre’s Huis Clos although this is hopefully on quite different territory.
Filming is necessarily having to observe current social distancing requirements, but it works well with their part-external setting in a shelter with some additional sound effects. There is a little intermittent microphone hiss but nothing that can’t be edited out as the project develops if they wish to maintain it in a filmed format in lieu of a theatre performance although I think the idea and delivery could work equally well for both. I look forward to seeing where they go with it.
Dear Beryl is written by Roze-Lewis based on a concept and characters created by both her and Allenby. It was selected as one of the four submissions for Theatre by the Lake’s first ever paid scratch night in February 2020 and the audience feedback from that night has helped it develop to this next stage of the journey. Longer term, the aspiration is to have it professionally produced and to tour northern venues.
The Moonlighters Collective is a feminist theatre company based in Liverpool creating original work. Allenby and Roze-Lewis are the co-artistic directors. Further details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/themoonlighterstheatre/
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 31st July 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★