STAGE REVIEW: Stupid @ Alphabetti Theatre (28.11.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

An hour long monologue has the potential to be, well, monotonous. One person holding the attention of an audience for a full sixty minutes is a big ask. And yet last night, Sian Armstrong kept a packed Alphabetti Theatre enthralled as she took the audience on a roller coaster ride of humour, awkwardness and deep sadness that is real life.

Written and performed by Sian Armstrong herself, STUPID is a series of fictional scenes based on real-life experiences of feeling inadequate, undermined and basically, stupid. At no point does she allow herself to refer to herself as stupid – that feels like a step too far – and yet her actions and reactions throughout the piece portray an uncomfortable need to prove herself: to conform and perform, whilst all the while, longing to be the funny, creative, caring human being that she was born to be.

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about these stories: an argument at a fun fair, living with parents’ expectations, a day in the life of a cover teacher, being determined to shine in a fun run….every adult on every seat could relate at some point to this ordinary life and that was the beauty of the performance. That could have been me. That has been me. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

As an artist who cannot yet call herself an artist, Armstrong naturally turns to a blank canvas, a marker pen and pots of brightly coloured paint to express what she cannot express in words. It would have been great to see more of this. This really worked and could have been woven into the narrative even more. That sense of embarrassment when she’s trying to hide the outward expression of her frustration on the backdrop behind her speaks volumes about wanting to express yourself and yet feeling vulnerable about the scrutiny and attention that that very expression may attract. I know that feeling. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

We each attend a performance not only to be entertained (and from the laughs and applause, STUPID definitely entertained this audience) but also to connect, to be changed by what we have witnessed. Being able to relate to the theme and emotion of the piece is key: in STUPID, Sian takes us on a journey, her own journey, which ends in a different place from where she started. We each place ourselves at different points along that path towards self-acceptance and self-realisation. When the final question ‘What are you going to do now?’ is asked, we each have our own answer (in my case, the same answer as the person I went with and yet different from the answer given as the final line of the show!)

None of us are alone in striving to understand our place in the world: in sharing together in this exploration of ‘not enough’ and ‘good enough’, we emerge into the night with a newfound courage to be ourselves, whatever that may look like.

‘What are you going to do now?’

‘Whatever the fuck I want!’

Like this story? Share it!