Saturday 11 November 2023

SALLY CARROT IS A FRAUD: Theatre Review

WHAT: Sally Carrot Is A Fraud
WHEN: 8 - 11 November 2022
WHERE: The Butterfly Club (Upstairs)
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: James Burgess
PERFORMED BY: Caz Dawes

Caz Dawes

Presented as part of the 'Monologue Festival' at The Butterfly Club this week, you could easily mistake Sally Carrot is a Fraud as just a comedy routine. It is much more than that, and your heart will ache as you learn the journey Sally has taken to get to this moment in her life.

Sally Carrot (Caz Dawes) is a young actor who has turned up to audition for what sounds like a one-line role in some TV series. Along with at least 346 other hopefuls she sits in a room waiting for her number to be called. At the start of the monologue they are only up to the high 200s so she will evidently be there for quite a while. 

To fill in time she starts chatting to the people around her and we learn about her childhood friend Tabitha and the clique she so desperately wanted to be a part of. Sally also tells us about her friend Julia Roberts (yes, the celebrity). Suffice to say, friendships are not easy for Sally, people can be cruel, and an active imagination can help or hinder.

Sally also has a lot of genuinely helpful acting tips along the way including don't be the person you think they want...be the person you are! Sally's life might be different if she followed that advice herself.

The show kicks off with a really funny off-stage set up as Sally finds her way into, out of, and back into the room and finds her seat. Dawes has a wonderfully mobile face for comedy and uses it to maximum potential all through the show. It is actually a bit of a shame the monologue takes a darker turn and never comes back because the set up and the actor are perfect for a laugh-a-minute hour of comedy.

James Burgess is a young film and TV director so he evidently knows the casting call process well. You can always tell when a writer writes what they know. What I don't understand is why he has written this role for a woman rather than a man, because this is where he falls in a hole both in the writing and in the directing. 

For the entire show the text is performed, but the subtext is ignored. Some of this flaw lies with Dawes, but as the director Burgess should have seen this and drawn out the undercurrents. I think, because he wrote the character as a woman, rather than a man, he doesn't truly understand the complexities of the relationships he has created which means he can't see the missing pieces. 

We hear the stories about Tabitha but we never find out how Sally truly feels. We hear about the Avalon Airport incident, but we never see how much damage was caused. We hear about Julia Roberts but we never get clarity on where any of this sits in Sally's mind and what this means for her here and now.

The biggest problem though, is that the stakes of this audition are unclear and there is no emotional pay off at the end for the audience. Because we don't understand the deeper sub-text the ending becomes unbelievable- not in a good way. It is not that we don't understand Sally has gone into a revery, but I have never met a moment of self-revelation which lasts for so long and resists so much prompting.

Add to this, the visual tedium of an actor pretty much just sitting in a chair for an hour and standing up a couple of times, and you have a rather unsatisfying and surprisingly sad night of theatre. It is dangerous for actors to sit when on stage because it usually ends with them relaxing their core. As soon as that happens they relax their grip on the audience. 

If you are going to sit in a chair for a long time you really need to find all the ways you can interact with that chair - especially if you are performing comedy. Just doing something dynamic with the chair would have made Sally Carrot Is A Fraud much more entertaining and would have added some textural depth to the performance.

I think Sally Carrot Is A Fraud is a cute idea and Dawes does a great job with the comic aspects of the material. Unfortunately the show just doesn't have the depth it needs to work as drama, or the comic direction and writing it needs to succeed as a comedy piece. If Burgess goes back and sees what the piece would look like as a male character I suspect he may be able to truly find the depth and detail he is looking for. Don't be the writer you think they want you to be - be the writer you are.

2.5 Stars

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