Based on the true story of a trainee teacher in London, Promises Promises is a 90 minute monologue thriller performed by Joanna Tope, who plays a 'venerable' Scottish teacher faced with the arrival of a Somali girl in her Year 2 class. Despite the epic length of the monologue, the show entertains from beginning to end, completely succeeding in dragging its audience straight in to the character’s world.
Margaret Anne Brodie (Tope) is the formidable teacher most audience members can recognise from their own school days. Her humorous outlook on fellow teachers and changes in society provide a subtle critic on today’s teaching-methods. However this is not the focus of the story, instead the writing continuously causes the audience to question Brodie’s view, whilst revealing fragments of her past in a way that keeps everyone’s attention. Tope’s performance is outstanding, with every emotion conveyed totally believable. She makes everyone believe that she is Margaret Brodie with her entire heavy past behind her.
The direction (by Johnny McKnight) is admirable, as there is only one person on stage an audience could easily get bored, but Tope delivers her lines to the entire audience, never once neglecting anyone. The high energy movement used makes the moments of total still even more poignant and are completely appropriate to what the actor is saying.
On the technical side, it is used in the most effective way, giving the piece a much sharper edge compared to monologues that use minimal tech or set. The side-lighting adds to the suspense, the small changes reflecting Brodie’s location or mood. Both the projection and music are perfectly timed to contribute further to her world and revolving panels at the back of the set emphasise how Brodie’s is telling her story.
This is an impressive piece of writing, the beautiful descriptions of events do not slow the pace due to eternal use of the present tense and Tope’s incredible identification with her character. The only issue is with Brodie’s past, because the back-story the writer apparently wanted to make clear is sometimes not obvious to the audience. However this does not take anything away from the piece. The climax is, though logically met, completely unexpected, which makes Promises Promises one of the most well-constructed shows touring Scotland this Spring.
- Rebecca O'Sullivan