Monday

I’ve always thought of religion as superstitious nonsense. This play reaffirms that belief. The plotline is thus: Neena is a teenager of about 17 years old who has been brought up in a deeply religious household and community in North London. Her mother is a Nigerian immigrant who clings to her religious roots and as such she, Neena’s half-sister and Neena’s step father are devout Christians. No mention is made of Neena’s father. The family pray to God several times a day. Neena herself does not, and this is the cause of a very strained relationship with her mother. This relationship has become more strained lately because of the presence of a “black spirit” in the house, for which Neena’s mother blames the protagonist for reasons that will become clear below. Neena is effectively shunned by her family, an outsider in her own home. She reacts by rebelling against the strict Christian doctrine of chastity and seems to sleep with anybody who asks. She offers boys at school “desert” after lunch. As such, she is also ostracised by her peers: the boys think she’s an easy lay and the girls consider her a slut. It seems that Neena has nowhere to go and no-one to whom to turn. She’s very much alone. It is this behaviour that has brought the malignant spirit into the house. Gloria Williams, who wrote this piece and plays all the characters herself, does a marvellous job of projecting a veneer of toughness and independence but she is also able to portray that loneliness, which shines clearly through. Although at times William’s rapid flitting between characters is difficult to follow, particularly at the start of the play before character identities have been established, she manages it admirably. She is undoubtedly a very good actress. Anyway, Neena’s mother, irreversibly convinced that her eldest daughter’s dalliances with the opposite sex referred to above have triggered the arrival of the “black spirit”, attempts to beat the devil out of her. This is because of Neena’s mother’s interpretation of a dream that names Neena as the culprit. Neena protests her innocence and eventually the true cause of the malevolent presence in the house is revealed to be her step-father. I shan’t tell you what he has done but you may be able to guess if I tell you that Neena and her step-father used to “pray” together. He later hangs himself but Neena’s mother blames this too on her daughter and practically disowns her. It’s an interesting play, a meditation on the effects that ingrained, unquestioned religion have on the mind of the adherent. It’s well written and the use of street vernacular lends the piece an air of realism. As can be expected from a one-woman show, set is sparse and lighting states minimum. This is beneficial in some cases but here I feel detrimental. Using just three different pieces of furniture, one for each character, would have been better and would have prevented the confusion I mentioned earlier. But this is a minor criticism of a good show. A good show, not a very good one. Why? Simply because there are a few details that need to be ironed out. Williams was rather static. She spent most of her time standing in a spotlight in the centre of the stage that made it feel that at times we were being preached to. Show you’re agitated by pacing the stage. Show despair by sinking to the floor. Just move a little more. All in all though, a show I would recommend. If you do get a chance to see this don’t turn it down.

Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

Mum and Neena both dreamt of evil last night. As they confront the past, what's revealed will tear their family apart. Can Monday ever be the same again? Gloria Williams' haunting new one-woman show, directed by Ellie Joseph.

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