Friday, May 29, 2009

Where have all the monologues gone?

I have had a sudden attack of nostalgia for the monologue this afternoon on my way home from work. I seem to remember in the 1990s the monologue was the thing, the one and only thing, to be listening to and watching. For all I know, of course, the good people of the world are monologuing merrily and plentifully, but alas I do not get out much.

So in the 1990s, when I did get out much, I did like a bit of fine monologue action. Stand out moment of live monologue for me, of course, is William Yang's Sadness. Words and pictures, brilliant. Despite only ever hearing one voice, Yang's Sadness is a conversation, a party, a dream but punctuated with moments of solitude, loneliness and tearing grief. The piece, in my memory, is watched over by the twin ghosts of Yang's mother and Patrick White, watching and waiting to see what the outcome would be.

I also remember vivid moments of Penny Arcade at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which was the wrong place because her work was as far from stand-up comedy as it is possible to be while standing up in front of a crowd of people and frequently making them laugh. Penny Arcade was not on stage alone. She was accompanied by burlesque dancers. There was a lot of flesh on display. But when she finally shed her own clothes and stood naked in front of the audience there was no sense of titillation; I just wanted to hear more, to hear more stories, more about her, to understand more about the kind of person she was and what she wanted to say. I was attached, compelled and distressed to think that the stories would have to come to an end.

There were monologue movies as well - Spaulding Gray's Monster in a Box stuck in my mind more for the look on his face when he tried to front up to the book on the table than any of his words. And Sandra Bernhard singing and mugging, but still managing to convince me that I wanted to know more, more, more.

5 comments:

Man O'Sand said...

The ABC did a 4 part(?) series of sorts in the mid 90s called Monologues (I think).
My recollections of the details are vague, obviously, but I think they were half an hour in length, shot like a standard drama. Neil Armfield may have directed one or all of them.
I remember Mitchel Beutel was in one of them and it was the half hour leading up to him committing suicide. Amazing stuff.
I have a notion that I would like to write a good one before I am through.

Armagnac Esq. said...

You have not deliberately left out Henry Rollins I assumez?

Penthe said...

No, not deliberately. Although I never did see him in the real life, even though he visited Melbourne a time or ten. Didn't deliberately avoid seeing him, either. I have a Henry Rollins sized gap in my monologue experience.

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