Review: An Evening of Filth and Despair

Part of Re:play Festival 2015, Sat 24 Jan, Home, Manchester

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Arriving at Home, the new Manchester arts venue built to house both Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre, for the ninth annual Re:play festival, you can’t help but feel the charm of the former venues has been lost in the process. It’s worth noting though that the festival was held in a soon-to-be office block, serving as a temporary site while work on the main theatres continues ahead of the official April opening.

As it happens, the corporate feel of the venue suited Jenny May Morgan’s one-woman show, an hour-long satirical comedy performance in which she takes on the role of erotic fantasy thriller author (blanket genre coverage to maximise audience) Pamela DeMenthe, who’s hosting a workshop for aspiring writers.

As the audience enters the pop-up theatre DeMenthe signs copies of the programme, as if it were a book signing for Sticky Digits, her 28th novel this year. She goes on to talk us through some of the tricks of her trade, which isn’t as hard as some authors may have us believe, she says. Top tips include using as many adjectives as possible, a large typeface and product placement for major supermarkets.

DeMenthe doesn’t take all the credit for her success however. She acknowledges her husband Keith for her pent-up sexual energy and credits her mentor Raoul for his dedication. Raoul and Keith seem to be spending an awful lot of time together on her material, she confides.

After the presentation – in which DeMenthe unwittingly reveals more details like these – she moves on to a Q&A session and a reading from Sticky Digits, in which the protagonist meets an Adonis of a Tesco deliveryman, Rodrigo. But DeMenth’s personal despair becomes apparent as the men her character pursues frustratingly turn into ravens.

The absurd course her writing takes provides a welcome change of pace to the evening and brings the show to a hilarious climax, averting a spiral of filth and despair.

Morgan has created a brilliant character in DeMenthe, who she first embodied 18 months ago. Her comic delivery is understated and while her material is firmly lodged in the gutter it manages to avoid going for the cheap laughs.

Antonia Charlesworth

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