I have had the privilege of working with Andy for the last couple of years through our new writing festival, StageWrite. What I can tell you about him is, he is a top bloke, a lot of fun to be around and his passion for all things theatre, particularly youth theatre is infectious. But the main thing is the quality of his writing. From his first submission there was something about his writing that was inventive, quirky and often funny. So when I heard that he had written a play that was going to be on at The Old Red Lion and that he was going to be performing it, I was delighted. I expected it to be awesome… I wasn’t disappointed!
The Me Plays are two monologues, Junkie and Hi Life, I Win. Both are written poetically, often rhyming and are delivered with an enviable energy. The first of the monologues looks at the effect of the digital age on meeting, dating and ending relationships. In spite of exploring centrally, the theme of internet porn addiction, there’s nothing superficial or glorifying about it. The protagonist has met a girl on tinder but there’s nothing simple about it; he is plagued with insecurities about his weight, whether he should end his text with an X or two and the red jumper he bought from Top Man. Throughout what is essentially a poignant, subtle look at the development of the digital age on communication, Andy manages to connect with the audience through moments of humour and warmth as everyone recognises something of themselves in various moments, whether its the way modern technology allows us to be anonymous, the way we perceive our bodies or the dissatisfaction with the current ‘youth’ of today.
Hi Life, I Win is the second of the monologues and, for me, the more interesting as Me now recollects being in hospital following a ‘scare’ for which he must wait a week for the results. The monologue dances between the present agony of awaiting these results with both the humorous and melancholic recollections of his childhood. We hear of his Catholic school upbringing and the Christian camp where we meet Arizona Dan who champions Me through some difficult times following the death of his Grandfather. Touching and laugh-out-loud funny, themes of faith, crisis and the significant single-parent relationship are explored.
Andy’s ability to deliver his own text with accuracy, energy and command was credible, impressive and disarming. The piece is semi-autobiographical and to perform someone else’s memories is difficult, to perform your own, however tweaked, is brave and vulnerable and allows Andy to immediately connect with his audience. Ryan Bradley, a recent graduate of Mountview Academy, proves himself to be an accomplished director working with challenging themes and difficult text which he has done with apparent ease. Whilst the set was interesting, minimal and almost Enron-esque with fluorescent tubes and tape marking the space it could, I think, have been used more inventively.