Review: ‘Purple on Toast’ episode 5

After five weeks of gripping and entertaining monologues from Purple Radio and Buttered Toast theatre company, ‘Purple on Toast’ is drawing to a close. Over these last few weeks I have been immensely impressed at the artistic talent Durham has to offer, and the perseverance of the students who continue to realise good quality content, despite the obvious disadvantages of this year . ‘Purple on Toast’ proves, like no other, that the show must go on. And whilst one finds oneself somewhat disappointed that the podcast is coming to an end, they certainly ended on a high.

The first and only monologue this week is called ‘Pinar’, written and directed by Saniya Saraf. The performance dealt with disturbing themes such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, a very thought-provoking issue especially as we enter a second national lockdown. Saraf cleverly and subtly weaved other themes into the piece, with potential references to eating disorders and relentless self-improvement. It is almost as if, as well as having the abuse of a partner, our speaker has abuse from her own inner self (what William Blake referred to as ‘mind-forged manacles’). Saraf also alludes to catcalling and the position of women in marriage (“I can’t stay unmarried for too long”). Such issues meant that listeners could not leave the podcast unscathed. They were not simply allowed to “hang up their brains”, as Bertolt Brecht says, but were prompted to go away and think about the broader issues of abuse, consent and feminism. Overall, this week’s episode of ‘Purple on Toast’ provided us with a truly compelling finish, one of unforgettable trauma, and serious messages.

Bringing this piece to life was Olivia Adderley, whose voice carried with it a certain breathless quality. With a low volume, listeners at home felt the weakness and emotional exhaustion of the speaker. Combined with harrowing references to strangulation in the script, one could not help but feel unnerved and shocked. This was complemented with the apostrophe to her abuser with the pronoun ‘you’, adding a kind of emotional intensity that overhangs the piece. But Adderley also allowed her voice to rise in moments of climax, breaking the fourth wall with ‘all of you listening’ as her voice started to shout. Towards the end, her voice took on a more aggressive quality, especially with the bilabial sounds ‘burnt and broken’. This added a certain tragic pathos which, combined with sheer emotional distress, truly wrapped the listener up in this distressing world of domestic violence.

The piece was carried forward by the SFX of a clock ticking, which enhanced the eerie mood and atmosphere pervading the performance. It created a tone of timelessness, as if the speaker was talking outside of their own body. This noise built in volume to a tremendous and dramatic climax in the monologue, made all the more sinister by Adderley’s harrowingly realistic performance. Overall this piece, with its tragic pathos and moments of pure intensity, as well as bringing themes of domestic violence to the fore, was an excellent place to end ‘Purple on Toast’. With the compelling writing of Saraf, the realistic performance of Adderley, combined with the eerie SFX, one could not help but be absorbed into this dark world which continues to haunt long after the monologue is over.

So that concludes our fifth and final episode of ‘Purple on Toast’. I was, in truth, not much of a radio drama listener before this collaboration between Buttered Toast and Purple Radio. But now, it seems, I have been converted. In a time where theatre is at breaking point, where the art industry must be more creative than ever in order to survive – ‘Purple on Toast’ show that it can, indeed, be done.

By Josh Goodwin

Image by Lowri Mathias.

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