Book reviews: ‘Can't believe I'm saying this to my Mum!’ Contemporary Duologues

John Johnson
Saturday, October 1, 2022

A promising choice for introducing students to duologues, but not as useful as a resource for examination material for older students


‘Can't believe I'm saying this to my Mum!’ Contemporary Duologues
‘Can't believe I'm saying this to my Mum!’ Contemporary Duologues

Let me start this review by placing myself firmly in the ‘Wheeler fan club’. Having met and worked with Mark Wheeler when hosting a performance of the wonderfully poignant I love you mum, I promise I won't die, I can safely say he is a huge advocate and supporter of drama in education. His work continues to be up to date and relevant and provide an excellent starting point for any teacher exploring verbatim theatre.

This collection of duologues from Wheeler plays is a superbly unique idea and covers a substantial range of issues, characters and time periods from the 1983 play Blackout – Operation Pied Piper to Game Over from 2019. The concept of a collection of duologues is a welcome one, especially to those of us who have monologue/duologue performances as part of our specifications. It can be a challenge to find impactful duologues and so to have them in one collection is a useful reference point. The scenes are given effective style headings such as ‘Stylised/Serious’ or ‘Serio-Comic’, helping the reader pinpoint what theyare looking for when trying to find one particular style for a pair of students.

The largest issue I found was that the duologues themselves are all quite short (a couple of pages at most), which doesn't give enough time for examined content and doesn't allow the actor to explore the character in depth. I can see that it is not always possible to find a longer section of a duologue from a play that is already written; if the text isn't there, it can't be extended just for the purposes of this book! However, with many of the duologues I read, I felt I was just getting into the swing of the piece before it came to an end.

The other (slight) irritation was the introduction to each duologue. While context is important, there is a large amount of instruction which I found both repetitive and a little prescriptive at times. For many of the speeches, the performer is advised to use direct address, which doesn't always work for a section of the play that is performed out of context.

This is a book that may be useful as an introduction to duologues or verbatim in lessons lower down the school, but perhaps not ideal when choosing sections for more senior students in exams.