Comedy whodunnit Psychodrama plays at Kentish Town’s new theatre venue
- Credit: Archant
Tufnell Park couple Emily Bruni and Matt Wilkinson stage a monologue about a disgruntled actress and a murdered director at Never For Ever in Highgate Road
A middle-aged actress with a bagful of axes to grind, and a murdered ex who never got to finish his latest project directing Hitchcock’s Psycho.
That’s the starting point for Matt Wilkinson’s revenge comedy Psychodrama which will play in a pop-up venue in Kentish Town.
The downstairs room at Never For Ever, formerly Pizza East, will become a performance space where Peep Show actor Emily Bruni will deliver Wilkinson’s monologue.
The pair, who live together in Tufnell Park, were due to take it to Edinburgh this summer but instead she spent lockdown rising at 5am to learn lines before their son got up.
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“We realised we had a one person show which would be potentially quite Covid friendly,” says Bruni who also continued to do voiceover work from a makeshift studio padded with duvets.
“We could rehearse at home and get it as ready as possible to move quickly if we found a theatre. The one thing we had was time. I worked 5-7 every day thinking ‘if I know it really well the window for failure will be small!’”
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The protagonist is an actress with a history of mental health problems under investigation for the death of her director. From the police interview, to mundane details of her life, to auditioning and landing the role of Marion Crane in the stage adaptation of Psycho, it explores being middle-aged in an industry obsessed with looks and youth.
“It’s very funny and should go at quite a lick,” says Bruni, who swears she’s never wanted to murder any of her directors which include Wilkinson.
“It’s a gripping whodunnint as she comes under investigation for murder and you try to work out who has done the deed.”
According to Wilkinson it’s also “a trip into the acting world” and some of “the unpleasant aspects” of the profession which sprang from fellow actors swapping hair-raising anecdotes of audition humiliations, and rehearsal rampages.
“We didn’t want to do an up the nose #Metoo thing, it’s much broader than that, lots of male friends have had experiences too,” says Bruni.
“Actors much further up the food chain than I, even those who are revered and sought after, have similar stories of powerlessness, feeling disregarded, dismissed. “Eventually that becomes rage, anger and the play wonders where could that eventually go?”
Bruni is clear sighted about an industry where you can be “treated like a Queen on a film set because if an actor isn’t there they can’t film” while continually being put into situations of powerlessness.
“The magic of acting is you get to remain a child, the shadow side is you are infantilised and disempowered.”
“Every job has its own peculiar pressures and for acting it’s the whole palaver of what you look like being part of the transaction. For many jobs there’s also an emotional and physical intimacy, and your vulnerability is part of the transaction.
“But that creates a hotbed for things to be unboundaried and potentially go wrong.”
Psychodrama plays on the inherent power imbalance of actors who “are dependent on someone else seeing your work in order to do your work or on other people’s eyes to help you make your work”.
“You have to embrace that and do your best with your bit,” says Bruni who
describe Psychodrama’s staging to 24 people for 10 nights as “an act of optimism in the face of Covid and the closure of theatres.”
She and Wilkinson feel their local friendships and community links deepened during lockdown and were glad “to find a local venue to do it in a small way”.
“24 people a night is just enough to raise a laugh hopefully if I get it right,” says Bruni.
While Wilkinson hopes the venue “might help to kickstart a local community of performance artists in the future.”
Psychodrama runs November 12-15 and 19-22 at Never For Ever, 79 Highgate Road. NW5.