The Gathering

Actors and audience come together for five daringly linked monologues at the Pick 'n' Mix festival

Sitting in the audience, I'm not the only one who’s anticipating the beginning. The five actors seated onstage seem equally anxious about what is to happen.

There is no curtain. Actors sit level with the audience in the Red Room of the Old Museum Arts Centre. The actors face a good-natured crowd and although their faces belie their concentration, the actors appear to be relaxed.

After everybody has been seated, director Claire Lamont hands the final script to the actors. That’s right, this is the first time each actor gets to see the final script. 

Throughout rehearsals, each actor had access only to his own monologue, and all had to prepare separately from each other. 

After a few moments of paper-rustling, the play begins. Without much confusion each character finds his part and tells his story. Fragments of monologues are thrown together and seem to be at cross-purposes.

The Gathering demands much of the audience, and has the perfect right to do so. What starts as an effortless performance, creating much laughter in the audience, soon turns into a net of indirectly interwoven stories.

Now it’s not only the actors that have to concentrate. The audience is equally challenged to keep up with the plot.

What is it that connects the estate agent, the angry newlywed, the confirmed bachelorette, the young football player and the love-struck simple guy? 

It’s not as simple as you might think. Because name-dropping starts only in the second half of the play, the connection is hidden for as long as is possibly endurable.

Lamont succeeds in presenting five colourful characters that slowly unite into a mosaic without losing their individual strength. They coexist, some with and some without knowledge of each other, and are glued together by one night’s turn of events.

Whether it's necessary to keep the actors unaware of each other's parts may be questioned. It certainly adds to the air of mystery and is a valuable experience for the actors. 

The play would work without the extra allure but it’s a nice accessory. Some will think it superfluous, where others wouldn't sacrifice this final touch.

The Gathering is the often told tale of fate and its consequences for different people. However, the story is told in a refreshing, new manner and truly captures the audience’s mind. It offers plenty to think about even after the nonexistent curtain falls. 

Scharonna Kroener