And insignificant it was. This might have been the aim of Insignificance at the Arcola Theatre, as it goes hand in hand with the name, but with minimal story line and even less relevance to today, it failed to make the audience feel much. There were redeeming moments of laughter and sincerity and most of the actors did a good job. The aim of making the audience feel like a fly on the wall was achieved by Terry Johnson’s writing, but the problems arose in the plot or lack of, and the sound effects, which were unnecessary in a realistic show like this.
Alice Bailey Johnson did a great job depicting Marilyn Monroe and it was evident that she had embraced the character fully – her father having written the play must have made it a special role for her. Simon Rouse also did a splendid job as the professor and the two had great chemistry on stage. Oliver Hembrough enters and his character is a comedic presence that doesn’t necessarily fits with the intellect that had been build thus far in the show, however great his acting is. The role of the Senator, Tom Mannion, was unfortunately not nearly as well portrayed or confident as the rest of the cast.
The writing was not poor, and most of the humour came from cleverly written dialogue and the audience really engaged when it occurred. The role of Monroe is beautifully written and the depiction is uncanny, perhaps just as much because of Alice Johnson’s great acting and research on her. The play was entertaining overall, but it lacked content and repetitions were often made that it could easily have been without. There were comments about bigger things in the world that could have been explored further, as it seemed to have been building up to that particular moment, a moment that never came.
Being a very naturalistic show, the need for lighting and sound is limited to something equally realistic. The lighting was fitting and organic, the sound however, was more a disjointed distraction as it tried to set the audience’s mood to a different genre, with dramatic music juxtaposing the naturalism it had created. And speaking of distracting, the costume of Monroe was not fantastic. The dress could have been more alike, but the wig was the biggest problem. It was too evidently a wig in quality and in the way it was attached to Alice Johnson’s head.
It was not a boring performance in any way. Repetitive at times, lacking in content perhaps, but the acting made up for some of it. However, the attention was too easily drawn away from said acting, to disruptive things that were unnecessary. The audience laughed and had a good night, but they didn’t walk away feeling like they’ve watched a mind-blowing piece of theatre. It lacked substance and the title was a bit too precise what to expect.