Dyssing Monadys

Reviewed: Wednesday 18th November 2009
The Horse, 122-124 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7RW

Given the developments in diagnosing dyslexia over the past 30 years, it is still remarkably hard to find hard facts about the disorder. It is seemingly equally difficult to find out what to expect from dyssing monadys from the festival website. With this in mind, the reviewer went into this experience with open expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

dyssing monadys is London’s “only annual festival in London celebrating the work of dyslexic story makers“, (so the programme tells me), but it would be a disservice to the pieces featured this evening, to dwell any further on the role of dyslexia in their creation. The festival takes place in a room above The Horse on Westminster Bridge Road on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout November; featuring a mixture of spoken word, musical theatre, comedy, and film.

The space does not lend itself to the mixed media of entertainment for tonight, but festival producer, Lennie Varvarides highlights early on that the venue’s benefit is its cheapness (free, with generous support from The Horse). As the festival is a fundraising initiative, one can easily overlook the slight technical hitches presented by the space

Tonight’s line up of Soviet Zion, Arnolds Anonymous, and Susanna, varies in success; ranging from a piece of “musical theatre” without the theatre, to a shortened short film about a big love for a big man, and a brilliantly delivered play, but all were delivered with charm and warmth

Written and performed by Giles Howe and Katy Lipson, Soviet Zion consisted of a brief spoken synopsis of their musical, and live singing with keyboard accompaniment. Starting with the rallying opening number, the tunes soon take a turn for the bleak in content and balladic in nature. A musical set in a Zionist settlement in soviet Russia may not be everyone‘s cup of tea, but Howe and Lipson were clearly talented musicians and writers.

It wouldn’t be fair to comment on Benjamin Otos short film, Arnolds Anonymous, as the aforementioned technical difficulties prevented it from being shown in its entirety; however it can be seen here: http://www.killtv.co.uk/pages/aa.html.

The majority of the evening was dedicated to the farcical play, Susanna, written by Russian writer NN Rakshin and debuted at last year’s festival. The programme boldly describes the play as “a farce when done well and a disaster in the wrong hands”. Whilst the first act never veers into “disaster“, and there are some moments of brilliant comedic acting from Clare Buckingham and Katharine Innes, it is only in the second act that the play builds into a terrific farce, and director Malwina Sworczuk proves that she has absolutely the right hands for the job.

Susanna is the best kind of comedy, where a solid script, clear direction, and talented actors force you to suspend the knowledge that you are sat above a London boozer with Jamie T and raucous laughter echoing up the stairs and to bathe in a warm glow of romance and happy endings.

Susanna alone delivered excellent value for money at £5 per ticket. But perhaps this is where the biggest criticism lies, with two intervals and the technical hitches, dyssing monadys feels like a long evening. It would have been a more succinct and impressive one with just the one standout production. The lack of thematic cohesion undermines the individual efforts, and unfortunately the concluding play overshadows the earlier performances with its slick farcical entertainment. These works and individuals would be given a greater chance to shine if there was some obvious thematic link between them – perhaps something to think about for 2010’s festival?

In the meantime you can experience this wealth of creativity for yourself at the last two performances for the 2009 festival on Monday 23 and Wednesday 25 November, and enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling from Susanna and the fact that all proceeds help to promote creativity in imaginative people who incidentally happen to suffer from dyslexia.

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