The Me Plays is written and performed by the multi-talented Andrew Maddock. It comprises two monologues, separated by an interval, where both are told in the style of spoken word: the dialogue is delivered naturalistically but using many rhyming couplets.
The first act sees Maddock relating the story of arranging a date, and it emerges as a thought-provoking commentary on the perils of dating in the digital age, as well as on the prevalence of potentially addictive online pornography. The self-confessed “junkie” spirals into stress over dating a woman he’s yet to meet in real life, buying a red jumper from Top Man he hopes might suit him. The relationship and expectations build through messaging: but will the personal encounter live up? The second story sees Maddock seriously ill in hospital awaiting a diagnosis. From his hospital bed he reminisces about his school days, seeing them through the prism of a condemned man. He recalls attempts to indoctrinate him into Catholicism.
Performing two solo pieces either side of an interval is no mean feat, and Maddock for the most part keeps the audience on board with powerful storytelling and a cocky persona. He covers a remarkable amount of dialogue too: gabbling through the lines at an astonishing rate, so it pays to listen carefully. Whilst spoken word is meant to be performed, there may be something to be said for reading the works and keeping to your own pace.
Apart from the fast pace, there are other reasons why The Me Plays may leave audiences confused, if not lagging behind. There are plenty of cultural references about everything from fashion to popular music that only people of a narrow age bracket will understand, leaving the text full of what feels like in-jokes. The dilemma faced as a new phase of life begins at thirty – too old for Top Man, not yet ready for the beige cardigans on offer in Marks and Spencer – is similarly a predicament offering limited empathy.
Whilst Maddock is a fine writer, there were aspects of The Me Plays that left us out in the cold; and whilst Maddock’s performance is never short of engaging, listening to only one voice for an hour and a half can become wearing (though, especially in imitating female voices, Maddock conjures an impressive range of supporting characters). We enjoyed the show, and we recommend it specifically to spoken word aficionados, but overall we couldn’t help but feel that tightening the two stories and picking out the aspects that made them universal would have left the evening resonating deeper and longer .