Review: GLAD TO BE DEAD at R-Bar, Brighton Fringe

A spooky addition to Brighton Fringe from Make It Mine Theatre

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!Each year Brighton Fringe is home to some of the UK theatre scenes wildest and most unique performances. With a plethora of shows littered across the city, you’re bound to find something fantastical to tickle your thespian fancy. Make It Mine’s offering is Glad To Be Dead, a cycle of monologues from gothic horrors most notorious characters, waxing philosophical and lamenting their own misfortune, all wrapped up in one hour.

Make It Mine (MIM Theatre) is the brainchild of writer and performer, Jade Flack. Jade’s writing partner is her own mother, Donna, and the pair have come together to create spaces for seven historically spooky figures. Or rather eight, that is if you include Jekyll and Hyde as their own entities. The cast is a tight-knit trio, comprised of Jade Flack herself, Barbara Llewellyn and Bruce Murray. The material is shared equally between all and set in front of a vast window down to the bustling Brighton seafront at R Bar upstairs. Where better to engage in ghostly conversations about a changing society from beyond the veil?

The non-linear structure weaves through various time periods, glimpsing at the proverbial “what if’s” that might arise if each character, or real figure, had the chance to engage with us from the safety of a liminal space. Some well known individuals, including Murray’s intriguing Dorian Gray, offer humorous interest whilst others allude to social inequity, resulting time after time in the fate of a scorned woman. Each speech has a familiar tone, but the overall theme of the piece is well established, along with quick transitions between characters.

The penultimate monologue, titled “Girl in the Drum” holds the most uncomfortable position in the show. Jade Flack returns to the stage calm and resolute, in a suitably retro dress whilst cradling an almost due pregnancy bump. The nature of her speech is shocking, as she reveals the facts surrounding her violent murder and the discovery of her mummified remains. However, the content becomes truly distressing if you explore the real murder case of Reyna Angélica Marroquín.

An immigrant from El Salvador, Marroquín worked as a nanny in New York until she was murdered by her employer, Howard B Elkins. Desperate to cover up his extramarital indiscretion, Elkins then discarded her 9-month pregnant body in a 55-gallon drum, where she remained undiscovered for thirty years, until 1999. No attention to Marroquín’s heritage, which undoubtedly suggests an unfair power dynamic in favour of Elkins, and recent nature of murder and discovery tilts this piece towards unsightly death tourism. Dramatisation of humanity’s horrors warrants particular considerations, but the choice to dramatise Marroquín’s life in such a way under this show’s title is a touch on the nose.

Glad To Be Dead utilises fictional characters to play with the morality and perspectives of some of literature’s greatest gothic writers. There’s a great anticipation in several of the monologues hinting towards almost daring writing choices from MIM Theatre. Barbara Llewellyn’s portrayal of infamous career criminal Katherine Webster is the most absorbing. Llewellyn omits a familiarity that leads you to believe she really could weave through opportunities with ease, even if it meant committing the odd heinous crime. “Webster’s Ego” is proof that the Flack’s recreation of real individuals can indeed be considered, as well as entertaining.

The MIM Theatre ethos is to perform scripts within their own interpretation and bring something fresh to audiences. With a little finessing and bolder choices, Glad To Be Dead is a curious example of the proximity between this intention and the work in action.

Glad To Be Dead is at Brighton Fringe until 24 May

Photo Credit: Beccy Mabey


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