Review: ‘Purple on Toast’ episode 4

It’s that time of the week again, and what better way to end spooky-season than with 15-minutes of enjoyable escapism into these podcasts. With one eliciting feelings of frustration and the other leaving me feeling frightened out of my wits – it’s safe to say ‘Purple on Toast’ certainly had the desired effect this week.

The first monologue, ‘Posho’ (written and directed by Jacob Freda) tells us the experiences of a middle class sixteen-year-old working in Tesco Express. Freda’s writing successfully conveyed the thought process of this self-confessed ‘posho’ with his excessive swearing. Combined with the performance of Rob Caesar, this created a pretentious and pompous character, someone who thinks that working in Tesco is beneath them. Caesar’s performance, with his received pronunciation to create a posh drawl, presented this distasteful character to listeners at home. By placing emphasis on expletives and insults, Caesar convincingly delivered this self-absorbed character, whose only hardship in life is working in a store a few hours a week. This arrogance and pomposity was developed later in the monologue when he disparaged someone’s figurines, with a voice that carried such disdain and superiority. One could truly imagine this character curling his lip and tossing his head, which only made one hate the character all the more

There was, however, some hope of a redemption which Freda cleverly weaves into the script. Caesar adopted a slower, reflective tone towards the end, which made listeners consider that the character might, perhaps, have some remorse towards his actions. This, however, was counterbalanced with scoffs and further insults (the elongated vowel sounds on ‘bastards’ being the real height of irritation), making the arc of this character truly ambiguous. Overall, the combined writing of Freda and performance of Caesar created a really dislikable character. As a listener one could not help but feel emotionally distraught and frustrated at him, and that’s exactly the reason why it was so realistic and compelling.

The second monologue, ‘Burial Ground’ (written by Issy Flower and directed by Caitlin Barratt) presents listeners with the harrowing history of property, and whether that would deter someone from living in that house. In writing the monologue, Flower gained inspiration from the likes of Dennis Nilson’s house, Scottish necrophile and serial killer, which now has people occupying the residence despite its gruesome history. The monologue also explores what would happen if someone you were close to committed those crimes, a dynamic that is explored towards the end of the monologue in a powerful conclusion. Flower’s writing successfully immersed me into the scene with its vivid description, from women in dressing gowns smoking on a crime scene, to blood running down walls, with dew on the grass, to dead people creeping out of the cupboards – I truly felt engrossed into this harrowing world so perfectly timed in the run-up to Halloween.

Francesca Chaplin’s startling and gripping performance combined eeriness and pathos, with touches of humour in a nine-minute emotional tumult. Beginning with a discussion on the difficulty of selling a house with a gruesome history, we find our narrator is not shy when it comes to sharing the grisly details of the house to potential buyers. With uncomfortable lengths of time left through her pauses, drawn-out sounds on words like ‘scrolling’, combined with repetition in Flower’s writing with phrases like ‘again and again and again’, one could not help but be unnerved and repulsed by the history of the house. This was counterbalanced with touches of humour as Chaplin raised her pitch in surprise when she was told not to come to the viewings (“I used to work in sales!”).

And yet as the monologue progressed, the writing and Chaplin’s performance got progressively darker. With the direct address ‘you’, the listener finds the narrator addressing the murderer himself. From slow and sinister tones, to a whimpering climax when mimicking Peter’s voice (“I want to go home”), listeners could not help but sympathise with the family affected by the gruesome actions of a serial killer. With a perfect blend of eeriness and emotion, this was brought to a close in an immensely ambiguous and satisfying conclusion (“You could have killed more people, thank fuck you didn’t. Or we’ll never sell.”) With the combined efforts of Flower’s immersive writing, Chaplin’s gripping performance and the direction of Barratt, the listener finds themselves absorbed into the world of serial killers, leaving us with an unforgettable moment of raw emotion and horror.

And that concludes episode 4 of this week’s ‘Purple on Toast’. Be sure to tune in next Thursday for the final monologues of this compelling series.

By Josh Goodwin.

Image by Lowri Mathias. 

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