A (nearly) solo show, Definitely Louise explores one young woman’s rage and loneliness. Devised and performed by actress Bethany Heath the play melds Fleabag's jaded confessional style with Girl, Interrupted. It’s sharp, emotive and full of poignant observations, though the story itself falls flat.
Sharp, emotive and full of poignant observations
Heath’s show is set in an untidy room that screams teenage girl. It’s littered with assorted props: Minnie Mouse ears, fashion magazines, exercise equipment, plastic cups everywhere. The cups, and a few other items (drumsticks, lipstick, stuffed bears, and nail varnish) do find their way into the action over the play’s course, but the rest may serve just to further illustrate the young woman’s eclectic personality. Heath’s heroine jumps from funny anecdotes to reenactments of commercials to disillusioned observations about humanity with no clear thread over the course of the show.
Of course, the point of the play is in all the things she’s not saying. She's a classic unreliable narrator and the audience is left to read between the lines of Heath’s energetic performance. Unfortunately, a bit too much onus is put on the audience here as the writing isn’t strong enough to weave a real plot together. While it’s obvious what’s happening (the 'twist' isn’t so much a twist as a convention of the solo-show genre) the 'why' remains unclear. The majority of the small scenes Heath chooses to put on stage – rants about acting jobs and pop culture, a strangely out of place re-enactment of an Australia’s Biggest Loser audition and an even more bizarre Irish recitation of the opening scene from Trainspotting - feel less like contributions to the story and more like tacked on methods for showing off Heath’s range (and, as an actor, she does have range – the show survives on her charisma alone).
But, as a writer too, she does have her moments. There is a lovely sequence about laughter and loneliness that cuts through the cocktail of bravado and overwrought angst and feels real. She’s at her best when she’s funny and sharply observant – her sly jokes about delivering the perfect pause and crocadile tears on stage land better than her tirades about 'musical theatre actors'.
The end is abrupt and the audience is granted no further resolution than the grim knowledge that we guessed the 'twist' – a tragedy that offers no real emotional blow to us since the script largely avoided diving too deep into what was at stake for our protagonist. But Heath does pull off a feat of emotion in herself, and she’s a force to watch throughout. Definitely Louise hints that her own writing is not yet the best vehicle for her talent, but still the play makes clear that Heath has something to say and a strong voice with which to say it, her future work is certainly one to watch.