ORIGINALLY conceived as a series of individual pieces for an online social media project, 12 –The Rainbow Monologues is made up of a dozen of these, developed for performance in talking-heads style from the stage.
The collection brings together the work of six writers, Wes Williams, Tim Norman, Simon James, Seb Fontaine, Jay Jonsonn and Jack Bell, who have found a rich and varied range of angles to view LGBTQ+ experiences. The palette of colours they use to paint their words is indeed quite a rainbow in itself. A cast of 5 actors (Holly Murphy, Alan Harbottle, Pam Ashton, Terence Conchie and Taylor Illingworth) take turns to deliver the words in a variety of styles, under the overall direction of Dan Scott.
Some of the tales are told with wit, some with pain and passion and some with poetic reflection. One takes a whistle stop trip through the life of Alexander McQueen, another riffs around an imagined back-story to Romeo and Juliet, and a third, containing liquorice allsorts, calls to mind the style of Victoria Wood’s storytelling.
A government minister exhibits unsurprising double standards in comparing his own indiscretions with those of his wife, while a young man delivers a beautiful elegy to Fortune and Men’s Eyes.
The success of this show lies in two things – the quality of the writing and performance of the individual pieces, and the ebb and flow of emotion between them. Harsh reality one moment is juxtaposed with light-hearted comedy the next. This assembly of very different texts offers light and shade, stark monochrome and dazzling colour, and creates a tapestry that illustrates a broader picture of queer experience than any individual story could show.
In the final analysis, what 12 – The Rainbow Monologues demonstrates above all is the shared humanity that binds us together.
Review by Nigel Smith