Culture: Theatre

Beige Recommends: Californian Lives

John Vernon, Robin Holden, Carolyn Lyster in Californian Lives

The interior lives of three very different Californians take centre stage at The King’s Head theatre this month in Martin Foreman’s ‘Californian Lives’.

Foreman’s three monologues, each 30 minutes long, are based on short stories from his book ‘First and Fiftieth’ and translate seamlessly to a theatrical setting.

In the first piece, ‘Los Feliz’, Robin Holden plays a salesman in a diner off the freeways of Los Angeles. As he tells the story of meeting the ‘woman of his dreams’, a lifetime’s worth of regret and lost dreams bursts forth, but as with all of these tales nothing is what it seems and the unexpected denouement is impeccably timed and crafted.

John Vernon is superb as an older gay man in the second monologue, which focuses on a group of gay men whose lives are interupted by the arrival of a much younger man at their local bar ‘Ben and Joe’s’. Vernon’s slow, thoughtful delivery aches with nostalgia for youth, but also the world weary wisdom of age, which we learn by the end of the piece is a double edged sword.

But the standout performance of the night comes from Carolyn Lyster as a middle aged woman reflecting on her husband and family, in her home. It’s a remarkably subtle, emotionally charged performance that leaves the audience transfixed in silence.

‘Californian Lives’ is a masterclass on the art of the monologue. Foreman’s incisive writing demonstrates expert use of pacing as he slowly peels back the complex layers of his characters to reveal the frailities of human experience. It makes for a profoundly moving evening.

‘Californian Lives’ is at The King’s Head Theatre from 21 April to 26 May.

Words: Alex Hopkins

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