REVIEW: MEGA (Tristan Bates Theatre) ★★★

Alex Milne has written, directed and stars in this smart one act comedy about identity and loneliness in an age when everyone has to have a story.

Three women, Angela (Kirsty King), a Princess, Tabatha (Casey Bird), a witch and Brandy (Alex Milne), a popstar, start by telling their stories to the audience. They are all performing an image they have created for themselves, to avoid relationships or to escape unhappiness. As we find out that the three women have been brought together in an unspecified institution, we see that they have bonded together to help keep out the outside world. As one character wryly observes “facing up to who you are is miserable”.

There is much to enjoy in Milne’s writing but in some places both the jokes and the story are a little thin. The mixed structure of monologue and dialogue sometimes jars, and although some sections are very well written, they feel cut short and they could have explored the characters a little further.

The cast all commit to their parts and despite their lack of experience, make a skilled ensemble. King does well as the prim and proper Angela and is able to suitably hint at a much wider emotional turmoil. A clever line about having to sacrifice friends is delivered with excellent timing. Bird gets most of the acerbic lines, her main function to be bitter and lash out in order to keep everyone at a distance, but too often the attempted sharp barbs miss their target. However, Bird is much more comfortable during the more confessional sections and her monologues to the audience are confident and full of pathos. Milne is not shy in stealing the show, her ditsy wannabe pop-star is self-absorbed and stupid, so Milne is able to have lots of fun and often draws the audience’s attention away from the rest of the cast.

The small dark space at the Tristan Bates Theatre is not the ideal setting for this show. The lighting design is limited to using a different colour for each character, and the set design is limited to a small number of props on an empty stage. Even still the constant shuffling of boxes seems to unnecessarily slow things down. In addition, the cast should have been more aware that if they sit on the floor at the front of the stage it makes it very hard for anyone not in the front three rows to see them.

These staging issues aside this is a confident first production that shows a talent for comedy from both the writer and the cast and is an enjoyable 45 minutes.

Reviewed by Kris Witherington

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