Issues surrounding love and trust are often explored in a variety of ways, but this powerful and original production written by Martin Foreman and directed by Emma King-Farlow has brought something entirely new to the table. A series of three monologues, Californian Liveslooks at what it really means to three very different characters living three very different lives.
In the first piece, Los Feliz, performed intensely but very well by Robin Holden, a young man falls in love with a beautiful woman and concocts an entirely fictional life in order to get close to her. As he weaves his tale, the initially unlikeable character reveals his insecurities and gradually draws the audience closer to him. Holden commands the stage extremely well and holds the audience’s attention throughout; something that is inherently difficult in a monologue.
Ben and Joe’s is a look into the lives of a group of mostly middle-aged men who while away their afternoons in a San Fernando Valley bar, united in their lust for the young barman who flirts expertly with each of them. A new arrival, Christopher, shakes their easy existence and causes a rift between the men as each of them is forced to confront their own prejudices. This difficult subject is delivered expertly by John Vernon who held the audience captivated throughout his performance.
Finally, the evergreen treat that is Carolyn Listerbrought an instant warmth and dose of humour to Sunset with her portrayal of a grandmother reminiscing to her husband on the long life they have shared together, with its succession of highs and lows. On the surface, her story is one of a very traditional marriage, but this is soon revealed to be a somewhat thin veneer as this apparently timid character reveals a strength and resilience initially unseen.
Californian Lives is no light-hearted feel-good piece, and not one for the faint-hearted. It is, however, exactly the kind of emotionally-charged and thought-provoking theatre that we need to see more of in this age of Disney-esque expectations.
Californian Lives plays at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington on Sundays and Mondays until 26 May. Tickets £11.50 – £20 from the King’s Head website.