Almost Instinct Almost True

How to remember the hermit of Hull? Almost Instinct, Almost True may refuse us an

Moments of lyricism, connection and surprising political relevance

absolute answer, but with moments of lyricism, connection and surprising political relevance, it asks an honest question about Philip Larkin’s controversial legacy.

This is not your average Fringe biopic: the story is told in dialogue between Larkin’s girlfriend of sorts - the lecturer Monica Jones (Julia Munrow) – and her younger, working-class student Tommy (Teddy Walker). And what a wonderfully complex relationship this is! It’s refreshing to watch a show that engages so tactfully with the nuances of age, gender, sexuality, class and political leanings in a way that feels authentic and recognisable, and not a tick-box exercise. The scene changes can be slightly clunky, but dialogue flows naturally between Munrow and Walker, exploring labels and identity through the familiar relationship between female English teacher and 'precocious' student.

Walker perfectly encapsulates the feeling of class-based inadequacy in academia - or at least the difficulty in pronouncing 'Yeats' – while Munrow strikes a balance between

snobbery and tragedy as Monica. She is at her best in her quieter, more tender moments, riddled with the insecurity that Larkin exploits. It’s her story, though she may be known as “Mr Philip Larkin’s girlfriend” and clad in his thickset glasses.

At times, arguments run on and grow repetitive, and there is the occasional lapse into the obvious with cries of “I hate you” and “I’m just so lonely.” Ippolit ought to relax and trust her audience a bit more, as she does when Munrow reads extracts from Larkin’s letters and poems verbatim, beautifully catching the rhyme of Born Yesterday.

It goes without saying that this is a must-see for fans of Larkin, but no-one can ignore the discussions of legacy and history that pervade modern politics. Taking its title from Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb, Almost Instinct, Almost True recalls another line: 'Time has transfigured them into untruth'. Walker’s candour in his closing monologue leaves the true Larkin up to us, but one thing is certain: 'poets aren’t the gods we think they are'.

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The Blurb

Our Almost Instinct Almost True is Philip Larkin's famous comment on whether what will survive of us is love. But was that true for his much-betrayed girlfriend, Monica Jones? This play by Rita Ippolit explores the theme of unrequited love, as Monica and her new friend share their loneliness and indulge in grim humour, learning more about each other than they wanted to know. Performed by Teddy Walker and Julia Munrow.

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