Review: Definitely Louise at Gilded Balloon

This year has seen a celebration of ‘unlikeable women’, from The Favourite to Killing Eve, female characters are finally allowed to be more than appealing. They can be messed up, cruel, hurting, spitefull and tired and still deserve screen time. When Bethany Hughes takes to the stage in Definitely Louise we know we are in the presence of an unlikeable character. A constant simmer of anger and resentment bubble just under the surface, occasionally bursting through to a full-on rampage. 

In her monologue delivered with occasional audience interaction, she sets herself in opposition to her best friend ‘Iz’ who is warm and generous, where she is ‘not nice’. The character switches between talking about her ambitions; to become a successful actor and better than everyone else, and spotlit moments of poor impressions of famous scenes (her Trainspotting monologue is done in a semi-Irish accent). Hughes holds the crowd with an engaging performance but this brittle depiction of a clearly troubled woman falls a bit flat. You can be unlikeable, but you must be interesting and the clues to her real character are buried under the abrasiveness.

The switch, of course, is that we as an audience are judging her for being judgemental,  nonetheless, when a not wholly unexpected twist is revealed, the pay-off isn’t enough to warrant the hour. The writing is good, although with slightly outdated references to Simon Cowell, and the acting is strong despite a slightly lost voice. However, the story feels well-trod, without enough freshness or structure to make the piece into something that demands your attention. This is Heath’s debut as a writer and actress at the fringe and there are moments of excellence in both. Future fringes promise great things, but Definitely Louise somewhat misses the mark.

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