The Opener: DULOG’s ‘A…My Name is Alice’
A revue style structure composed of a mixture of songs and sketches, ‘A…My Name is Alice’ is a feisty slice of feminist theatre that explores the spectrum of female experiences through its 5-women cast. Still a relatively unknown piece on this side of the Atlantic, DULOG has dusted it off and given the show its first Durham outing to moderate success.
The evening can be best described as a mixed bag, with gems of performances and clunkier pieces coming almost in equal measure.
It didn’t get off on the best of notes with the rather lacklustre performance of the opening number, ‘All Girl Band’, a piece in which we are meant to see the power and sass of its five-strong cast come to life. Instead the result proved rather uninspiring and this unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the evening: a rather flat mix of sketches and songs with the occasional fizz to pick it up and give hints towards its potential greatness.
This is partly a consequence of its revue format. While lesser numbers can slip by reasonably unnoticed when part of a whole musical, in a revue format the judgement is naturally harsher; individual sketches or songs don’t have the luxury of relying on a supporting whole if they happen to miss the mark. If they do, the moment is gone and the pressure is raised for its follower to repair the damage. As such even the stronger numbers of the evening often had to spend their opening moments neutralising an atmosphere of awkward silence left by a sub-par predecessor before they could turn their focus to their own deserved moment in the spotlight.
Daisy Newlyn stood out as the show’s only constant source of energy and at times it felt like she was being relied upon to carry the show while others were hidden in the background. This was to the extent that she had a number of cruelly quick costume changes and as such was often denied the chance to regain composure before her next number. Regardless of a tough schedule, Newlyn provided the much-need ‘fizz’ of the ensemble numbers as well as giving great solo sketches as a crazed feminist poet and a vengeful slighted girlfriend.
Hannah Cope unfortunately seemed restrained for a large part of the show, to the extent of often appearing uncomfortable in the group numbers. It was a relief when she was finally able to let rip with the belting ‘Honeypot’ number in which her portrayal as a blues singer unable to articulate her sexual desires without the help of stilted Blues tropes perhaps earned her the title of performance of the evening.
Jessie Keely has a lovely voice which was put to use well in the more sentimental songs but she lacked the necessary feistiness to prevent her from looking awkward within the girl-powered group numbers, at times resembling an unwilling member of a rowdy hen party. Anna Budgett and Rozi Prekop had moments of excellence (Budgett in ‘Friends’ and Prekop in ‘Pay them no Mind’) but never fully managed to put their own stamp on the production in the way Newlyn and Cope succeeded in doing.
The one group number in which the pieces fully slotted into place was ‘Bluer than you’, a three-way lament of the respective woes of a trio of sweat pant-clad women, each fighting for the title of the saddest tale to tell. This is when the show finally ‘popped’ for me, when the necessary amount of female oomph and self-deprecating humour came together to create something of true strength and hilarity. I only wish this level of quality could have been maintained throughout.
It has some great moments but DULOG’s ‘A…My Name is Alice’ never really punches with the weight it is capable of.