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Mr Monkey sees How My Light Is Spent at the Royal Exchange Studio

Venue : Royal Exchange Studio
Start date: 24th April 2017
End date : 13th May 2017
Visit date : 27th April 2017
Mr Monkey looking at the How My Light Is Spent poster
Mr Monkey looking at the How My Light Is Spent poster

Mr Monkey caught a bus into Manchester and scampered along to the Royal Exchange Studio for the press night of How My Light Is Spent.

Written by Alan Harris, How My Light Is Spent won the Judges' Award in the 2015 Bruntwood Prize. This production is its first performance.

Kitty is an adult chatline operator in Newport, living in the granny flat of a topiary enthusiast called Stephen (though he likes to be called Stevo). One of Kitty's regulars, Jimmy works at Newport's only drive-through doughnut emporium. Since his marriage broke up, he lives with his mother, Rita. Jimmy and Kitty meet briefly, then he gets made redundant, replaced by a coin bin. This leads, strangely enough, to Jimmy's hands becoming invisible, which leads to other body parts going. The rest of the play is largely Jimmy trying to set his life to rights before he disappears completely.

The set is a simple walkway suspended a little above the floor. Props are minimal, and are mostly described in the text of the play. Mr Monkey did think it might have been interesting to actually see two giant squirrels locked in combat rendered in topiary, but agrees that it probably worked better in his head.

There's seating on both sides of the stage, and Mr Monkey had a slightly odd experience going in. For some reason he thought there was a large mirror opposite him, and was alarmed to see that neither he or Mr Rik were reflected in it. This put him in exactly the right frame of mind for a play about someone who is failing to appear in mirrors. Mr Monkey hopes it was a deliberate visual trick, and not just him.

How My Light Is Spent is a magical love story, a fairy story set in a real post-industrial town. It's also very funny. And poignant. A lot of the text is description, which could end up sounding like a radio play but doesn't; Mr Monkey thinks this is entirely because of the two excellent actors - Rhodri Meilir as Jimmy (mostly), and Alexandria Riley as Kitty (mostly). Both play extra roles - Stevo, Rita, and so on - as needed, simply by a change of posture, expression or voice. The overall effect is of two people telling their story, each correcting the other because they haven't been together long enough to have an agreed story, to a roomful of strangers.

Alexandria Riley as Kitty and Rhodri Meilir as Jimmy (Royal Exchange Production photo by Jonathon Keenan)
Kitty (Alexandria Riley) and Jimmy (Rhodri Meilir). (Royal Exchange Production photo by Jonathon Keenan)

Mr Monkey really, really enjoyed How My Light Is Spent and thoroughly recommends it to anyone who wants a totally engrossing, funny, sad, and joyous hour.

How My Light Is Spent runs until 13th May 2017, after which it will be performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, and the Theatre on the Lake, Keswick.

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