Tristan Bates Theatre, London
Hilarious and thought-provoking, Alex Milne’s debut as both writer and director focuses on whether we find our identities or simply create them?
A witch, a royal and a pop star all take centre stage in this immensely likeable if at times slightly disjointed debut play from Alex Milne that examines the question of identity and how we perceive ourselves to be as well as how others see us.
Seen through the eyes of Angela (the Royal), Tabatha (the witch) and Brandy (the pop star), Mega is a journey of self-discovery for each of these seemingly different characters on the surface – but as the story unfolds their loneliness and vulnerabilities are revealed to show in fact they aren’t actually so different it is just the way in which they handle things are.
Written and directed by Milne, Mega initially does feel slightly disjointed particularly during the scene changes between the opening monologues from the characters, but the writing and production soon gains confidence the further you delve into their stories.
While the when and where of the play’s setting remains a mystery, the characters are all wonderfully well written and brought into sharp focus that this somehow doesn’t really matter – it is the individual stories and how the characters interact with each other that forms the centre of this piece and at times to hilarious effect. Angela is desperate to meet her “intended” husband, Tabatha is utterly convinced her powers as a witch work well on people and Brandy goes around boasting about her popularity as a pop star – but this is all bittersweet as they lie to each other but worse they are lying and deluding themselves which adds an element of sadness to the piece beneath the humour.
Thanks to Milne’s insightful and funny writing, while all of the characters may seem self-absorbed and utterly flawed you can’t help but warm to each of them as their masks begin to slip and their true selves begin to emerge. While the monologues are helpful in giving each character background and insight into their lives, it is the moments when they are all together that are in fact the most sharply revealing. This is made clear when Angela decides to leave and Tabatha’s shock is clear – none of them are friends with each other but their is still a strong bond that they haven’t dared to acknowledge.
Mega is successful in the way in which it gets you thinking about whether it is possible to have a clear cut identity based on our hopes and dreams that we create for ourselves when reality means that depending on our situation at the time we have to assume more than one identity. It is a powerful thought told with great warmth and humour throughout.
There are also some wonderful characterisations from the cast that highlight and exaggerate the characters differences really well. From Alex Milne’s ditzy and vain Brandy, Casey Bird’s frank and honest Tabatha and Kirsty King’s upright and buttoned up Angela – the performances work well together to offer a nice dynamic when they are all on stage together.
But it also feels as though there is room for development in terms of the script as well, particularly as you are left with plenty of questions about what lies in store for each character. The vagueness in the writing at times can make it difficult to engage properly with what is unfolding.
However, this is still a funny and thought-provoking piece of writing that has potential to be developed even further.
By Emma Clarendon
Mega continues to play at the Tristan Bates Theatre until the 13th July.