Beginning at a spotlighted microphone with a tablet at the ready, Pauline is presented almost as an audiobook or radio play. However, writer and performer Sophie Bentinck proceeds to expand from here, guiding us through a layered storytelling format: monologue, audio recordings, projected text, and role-switching between characters with a symbolic chest full of symbolic props to aid the narrative.
The prize-winning memoir-play is inspired by diaries of Bentinck’s grandmother that she found. Realising there was a lot of upsetting family history that had been kept hidden from her, Bentnick proceeded to interview and record her mother, re-read her own teenage diaries, and began writing about what she discovered, not even realising the full importance of what she was doing until after it was complete.
Structured mainly around grandmother Pauline’s chronological diary entries, the play explores mental health, deception, and the heartache of romantic relationships. Pauline is conveyed as a fascinating and troubled character, who suffered from the social constraints of the 50s and 60s, amongst other things. The comparison between love and womanhood in different eras is particularly interesting and Bentinck’s self-parody of her teenage self, almost Catherine Tate-style, is a hilarious highlight.
At some points, the format seems to wander a little, and perhaps the thematic connections between generations could be highlighted even more strongly. However, it is undoubtedly a very personal piece and the final act is moving and poignant, powerfully performed by its star.