Thomas Pymer

at 22:44 on 20th Aug 2018

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Elina Alminas’ one-woman monologue ‘Laura’ left me in the situation where I was laughing hard and had an enormous lump in my throat at the same time.

Alminas gave a stellar performance. She managed to create a character who is desperate, grief-stricken and ultimately just totally lost in what’s just happened to her (without giving away any spoilers). She made Laura seem like a believable person, someone who could actually exist (and indeed probably has existed at some point). Her acting was, quite frankly, superb from the first offstage sob to her final touching exit. She never broke character, and considering what a complicated character Laura was, with so many different layers of emotion all at the same time, that is saying something.

The style of the performance was also remarkable. It was subject to the most enormous mood-swings, with Alminas going from extolling the virtues of living alone and free one minute to lying on the floor in a drunken heap the next. I was originally unsure how I felt about these, but as it went on, it was clear that they added a lot to the performance.

Alminas played Laura as going through the various stages of grief (anger, denial, hope, sadness and so on) convincingly and seriously, the spiral of her mood swings showing exactly how torn-up she was feeling. Music, lighting and comparatively simple costume was used to great effect.

Be warned: if you do go, prepare for audience participation. Not all performances carry this off well, it can be the single biggest failure. Alminas, however, did it exceptionally. Her interactions were as wild and random as the rest of her character, but in the context of the play and the things she was saying, it not only worked, but actually lifted the performance to a better level. She managed to make it seem natural and made it funny.

The one thing I did wonder about was whether or not Alminas’ talents were slightly limited by being constrained solely to herself and the audience. She bounced off the audience so wonderfully that I do genuinely wonder what she might have been like had she had another few actors playing to perform alongside her. The fact that it was a one-woman monologue might have limited her.

Yet this criticism does not really count as a criticism when I consider that I have never seen a monologue done so well. There was no loss of extravaganza – on the contrary, many of the moments were basically as extravagant and high-energy as they could have been. Asking what would have happened if there were other actors is hardly legitimate when one considers how enchanting the monologue was in itself.

In all, it gives me great pleasure to label ‘Laura’ as a triumph. It has impeccable acting, hilarious comic moments juxtaposed by genuine sadness and a character who is believable, fun and sympathetic. Take a bow, Elina Alminas, you deserve it!

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Tara Snelling

at 10:00 on 21st Aug 2018

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We are gathered here today to witness an empty stage and listen to pop hits thump out of the booming speaker system: a lighthearted set up which screams student improv. Then, suddenly, here comes the bride: mascara-streaked, wide-eyed and fuming. It seems the ‘something blue’ is the inconsolable Laura, tearful, alone on stage, and turning to the audience with questions no one can answer – like, for example, where is the groom?

This is no ‘one-woman’ show: the audience become the cast, and we learn each of us are wedding members with our own back stories. Sometimes we are friendly faces, other times freeloaders, occasionally even ghosts of the past. Aliminas casts at whim, but never isolates or humiliates – it’s the best, unifying kind of audience immersion rather than anything cringey or anxiety-inducing.

However, as the first ten minutes roll on, I start to worry this is all we will get for an hour – a ranting woman, accusing unpurposefully, weeping intermittently, and as nutty as her fruit-assorted wedding cake. What does this mean, exactly? What should we be feeling? However, what started as a shocked reaction to disappointment soon snowballs into a tale of self-revelation, unexpected jubilation, and a nuanced unpacking of everything which has led up to her jilting. Talking endlessly eventually results in a dynamic of intimate vulnerability, and rambling soon becomes very impressive physical theatre. Her story is one of possessing and relinquishing control, from trying to keep everything together to letting it merrily fall apart.

It becomes impossible, if not to like Laura, to at least admire her. There is something hugely powerful about her unfiltered openness before the congregation, and how she can simultaneously care so much and so little. The lighting design is seamlessly externalises her magnificent deterioration and self-realisation, perfectly staging radical mood swings across a continuum of breakdown and triumph, flipping from histrionic to euphoric. Elina Alminas is a true powerhouse, and the master of unflinching eye contact with seemingly every single member of the audience – yet somehow always and especially you. She is truly transfixing.

A killer script meets killer performance, ‘Wild Stories’ meets ‘Fleabag’: Aliminas is one-to-watch. Kinetic, magnetic and transfixing, this ambitious show doesn’t let up from start to finish. This is an incredibly assured debut, and a radical performance which is at first confusing, but transitions into incredible catharsis.

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