Tuesday, July 5

The Return of the Rainbow Monologues – Liverpool’s Royal Court

The Return of the Rainbow Monologues is a collection of eight short LGBTQIA+ themed monologues from Grin Theatre. Presented during Pride month, the show both explores the difficulties faced by the Community and celebrates the intricacies of the individuals belonging to it. 

Directed by Dan Scott, with creative direction from Kiefer Williams, the production feels particularly intimate in the beautiful studio space at the Royal Court. All four actors sit on the stage throughout the entire show, creating a feeling of togetherness during the individual performances. Rainbow lighting is used in keeping with the theme of the show and each half opens with a snippet from Over the Rainbow, which is both on theme and especially resonant on Judy Garland’s 100th birthday.

The costumes and make up used in the piece are excellent, and as the actors are present onstage throughout the performance, there is some indication from the beginning of both halves what their monologues are going to be about. Terence Conchie’s bloodstained shirt in the first half is particularly intriguing before he speaks and creates a sense of dread as to the tragic tale which has led to him being in such a state.

The opening monologue, Tom, written by Gary Taylor, is performed by Bradley Sean McDonnell. McDonnell is playing Tom’s twin, who has recently died of COVID. McDonnell’s devastation over his twin’s untimely passing and dealing with looking “at his brother” in the mirror every day is very apparent. McDonnell relates comforting Tom’s fiancé, Paul, and his regrets over their drifting apart due to being from “different worlds”, as he was “the straight one”, and his strong emotions over these events are well portrayed.

McDonnell’s contemplation is followed by the far more agitated and dishevelled Clare McGrath performing People Like Me, written by Wes Williams. Separated from her girlfriend during lockdown to care for her Mum, McGrath’s portrayal of someone whose world is collapsing around them is excellent. The constant knocking from her mother upstairs adds a sense of urgency to the piece and creates a feeling of stress, which leads nicely to the next piece, Escape Plan.

Written by Jack Bell and performed by Liam Shields, Escape Plan explores the murky and disturbing world of Christian conversion therapy. Unfortunately, this piece is particularly relevant following recent media coverage of conversion therapy practices, and this monologue does a good job of showing how they continue outside of the law. Shields does an excellent job of combining his palpable desperation to escape with his sweet musings on his attraction to Luke, the boy in the room next door.

Bill Fairfax’s Old Souls, performed by Conchie, closes the first half with a heartrending tale of a random homophobic attack on Conchie and his partner, Mark. Very emotional, this piece is particularly tragic for the senselessness of the assault that Conchie and his partner have endured at the hands of teenagers armed with knives. Old souls is both a commentary on hate crime and the rise of knife crime in the UK, and the open ending creates the sense of hope and helplessness we are all feeling as violent crime increases in our society.

The monologues in the first half of the show all have the feeling of something ending, whether this is an actual loss of a loved one through a death or the breakdown of a relationship, or the emotional loss of respect for your family when they try to have you “made normal”. Combining stillness with agitated movement, the pieces flow well from one to the next. The second half features monologues with more of a feeling of beginnings. These again combine actual beginnings with metaphorical ones and end the show on a positive and hopeful note for the future.

The first piece, Past, written by Wes Williams and performed by Shields, takes place at another funeral. Shields plays Paul, who works for the BBC and is sitting with his sister at his father’s wake. Uncle Pete is staring at him and making him very uncomfortable due to his history with him. Shields does an excellent job at creating agitation and portraying both his sister and Uncle Pete through subtle changes in voice and body language.

Missing Doe, written by Alison Winter and performed by McGrath, is a sweet tale of McGrath clearing out her partner, Doe’s belongings a year after her death. This monologue does an excellent job of creating that feeling of both being upset that someone has gone while being grateful and happy over all the lovely memories you had with them. The light comical touches are particularly suited to McGrath’s acting style, and she breathes such life into the other characters, it is difficult to remember she is performing alone at times.

Dan Saul’s Morning Breath, performed by McDonnell is a very funny and light-hearted look at the awkwardness of one-night stands and the hope you feel when you hope it might go further than just one night. McDonnell plays Gary, who has woken up to find Luke beside him, but can’t remember how he got there or even who he is. McDonnell’s excellent comic timing and body language make this a charming and sweet performance. 

The show closes with Roo Pilkington’s Be a Man, performed by Conchie. This rhyming monologue is presented through the eyes of a teenager, first questioning their sexuality and then their gender, in a slick and thought provoking piece of theatre which gives a voice to the changing world of the LGBTQIA+ Community.

The Return of the Rainbow Monologues is an interesting and varied show which presents many aspects of the varied and vibrant world of LGBTQIA+. All of the pieces are short, and many are worthy of further development as it feels inevitable that some of these characters have more to say about their lives and stories. The performances and direction are excellent, and the production provokes a wide range of emotions and gives you plenty to think about.

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 10th June 2020

**Due to the individual nature of each monologue, we do not give an overall star rating for productions such as this**