Hear Me Howl – Old Red Lion

‘Hear Me Howl’ is the most alive one-woman show I have ever seen. It crackles with energy. Alice Pitt-Carter plays Jess, who has just turned 30 and is questioning everything she ever thought – or was told – she wanted from life. Lydia Rynne’s script keeps the audience captivated with humour and vivacity, giving us old-school feminist rage alongside millennial self-doubt and torturous self-awareness: “I don’t even like avocados.” I often find pop cultural references awkward or too try-hard in contemporary plays, yet the jokes revolving around hashtags and emojis feel right in a narrative that is so focused on what it is to be a woman in this particular milieu.

The monologue is told in retrospect, in the form of a chronological relation of events. The style is chatty and hyperbolic at times, replete with sometimes brilliant, sometimes (intentionally) inane metaphors. At the beginning, there were a few lines that I was itching to interrupt with a full stop or cut completely but these were few and far between. Nonetheless, Pitt-Carter manages to deliver even the most gobstopper of sentences with seeming ease. The entire monologue is spoken directly to audience but there is only a short moment of direct audience involvement, in which we get the tiniest inkling of what a panic attack might feel like. It is effective but I am glad it is a one-off tactic: the show allows us to experience and live through Jess’s narration, and it is getting lost in the story that gives it such impact.

Jess is a drummer – or rather, she has just become a drummer – in a post-punk band. As such, the show utilises a drum set as a prop throughout. This was a really great way of incorporating pace and excitement into the monologue, and is a testament to Kay Michael’s direction and Fay Milton’s role as musical consultant. At one stage, as Jess describes running, she uses the foot pedals to mimic her actions and set up a beat, which really increases the dramatic tension. The inclusion of occasional drumming also sets up suspense, as the audience are left waiting to see/hear Jess drum properly right up until the end of the play: we start to be just as desperate for it as she is. When we finally do get to see her ‘in action’, I realised just how wholly I had fallen for Pitt-Carter’s characterisation: I almost felt I should look away, like I was intruding on a private moment. It is a glorious way to end the show.

As you would expect of a small-scale production, the lighting and set are fairly simple but altogether they create a polished piece. The venue is perfect; watching in a theatre pub feels only a small step away from being at a gig. The exploration of dissatisfaction, guilt, expectations and growing up are all clearly geared towards those in their 20s or early 30s, like Jess, and I imagine older audiences might not relate so much to the issues raised. Whilst much of the show explores explicitly female concerns related to fertility – “we’re not getting any younger, Jess” – and gender roles – “I’ve never seen anyone like this before. Not a woman anyway”, this is definitely a play for all genders to enjoy and be inspired by.

 

Hilarious and fun-sized at just over an hour, ‘Hear Me Howl’ is only on for two more nights. Don’t miss out! Tickets here

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Claudia Graham

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