The Great Disappointment Of Santa Muerta
JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT OF SANTA MUERTA at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 2.10.12
2 stars **
WHAT IS there, really, to say about death? It’s inevitable, and often sad; but only the childish, the depressive, and those obsessed with their own immortality, waste any more attention on it than it absolutely demands.
In setting herself up as a self-absorbed young actor struggling to prepare for the role of Death (Santa Muerta) in a Mexican Day Of The Dead pageant, the Glasgow-based writer and performer Amanda Monfrooe therefore embarks on a high-risk project. Over 45 minutes, in a monologue which she performs herself, she shows her heroine inspecting dead pigeons in the street, receiving a visit from the black dog of depression, and offering her five-year-old nephew a gift of earth as a birthday present; the running joke is that she’s so self-absorbed she can’t even remember to feed her goldfish, which eventually dies.
Some of these episodes are pleasingly surreal and wacky, others are plain embarrassing; and the intervening sequences in which we see our her on the day of her big performance, exchanging philosophical thoughts with herself as she waits to “go on”, are agonising examples of overwritten poetry mistaking itself for a playscript. It’s not that there’s no good writing here; some of the language is vivid, and there’s plenty of passion and politics in Monfrooe’s disgusted descriptions of the way we live now.
It’s just that if Monfrooe wants to show her character’s preoccupation with death as immature and silly, her own interest in it often seems just as unattractive. It’s as though the two layers of the monologue – the actor’s story, and the writer’s ironic view of it – keep accidentally collapsing into one another; the actor not much sillier than the writer, and the writer no less determined than the actor to fight her way through this youthful argument with the inevitable, towards a statement of the blooming obvious.