Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Be My Guest, Monia Baldini, Prague Fringe Festival ★★★☆☆

At approximately 45 minutes through the show, as I watched Baldini pretend to birth a fully grown man she’d handpicked from the audience, whilst two female audience members clasped arms with each other around the scene to symbolise Baldini’s stretching labia, I thought: fair play Baldini you have well and truly had us.

If I had my way, next she would have pointed to a microphone in her ear and pulled back the curtain to reveal someone sat with a microphone, Ant and Dec style, wiping tears from their eyes.  The whole thing would have suddenly made sense to me as a wild social experiment to see how many weird things Baldini could make an audience do out of some misplaced sense of etiquette and hushed respect for the arts and artists.

It didn’t end this way; it ended in a group chant in which we promised Monia to respond to theatre we didn’t like by screaming ‘I’m fucking bored’. Well, Monia, I was fucking confused so I returned to the show description which I probably should have read in more detail prior to attending the show.

The concept behind the show is that every human being is a galaxy, with guests living inside us. We are invited to join Monia’s six personalities on stage in a journey towards self-acceptance that very much includes you – the audience. Where I’d expected to watch something similar to the movie Split, I found myself being asked to stare into the eyes of the person next to me and tell them I loved them.

Researching after the show I learned that the six personalities I had spent an hour with were ‘The Tragic Actress’, ‘She Lion’, ‘Venus’, ‘The Artist’, ‘Nina Divina’ and ‘Me’.  Looking at the show through this lens I saw a narrative of sorts emerge: ‘The Tragic Actress’ was the person Baldini inspired to be; ‘She Lion’ was indicative of her base desires; ‘Venus’  is the woman who wants to be loved; ‘The Artist’ is the confused creator, ‘Nina Divina’ is the rational voice, and ‘Me’ is the child self.

I’m still not entirely sure how that resulted in a live enactment of a birth, but that one’s on me for allowing my inner narrative to eclipse actually listening. That seems to be part of Baldini’s agenda; we are her guests and we are to be pulled out of our own bodies and selves by being used as props in her own dismantlement. I don’t hate it as a premise, but an hour’s a short time to rewire a lifetime of social conditioning. And as I sat in a theatre room with a bunch of strangers, none of us wearing shoes, I thought: there’s something to be said for a bit of social conditioning.

A Fringe Award Winner, the show clearly connects with certain audience members and I can see why. Baldini is an absolute tour de force, bringing energy and humour and madness in equal measure. Whilst I wasn’t pulled out of my body at any point, I did become painfully aware of how awkward I felt in it when she was asking me to stare at a stranger and confess love so there is method to her madness. Be My Guest was a bewildering hour of my life; not one that I ever want to repeat but not one that I want to erase either. For this show I recommend you ignore all star ratings and simply ask yourself if you want to feel both uncomfortable, perplexed and amused. If the answer is yes – go.

Recommended Drink: Some sort of herbal tea to soothe the senses and allow you to reflect. Pukka have one called ‘Feel New’ which seems fitting.

Catch Be My Guest at The Museum of Alchemists until the 1st of June. Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.

Eilidh McKenzie

Eilidh is a writer, reader and avid watcher of film, television and theatre. She loves writing that blends comedy with darkness, and makes public the quirks of life and character that we've been taught to hide. She also aspires to be fluent in Spanish, but so far this has proved far harder than expected.

Festivals: Adelaide Fringe (2024) , Prague Fringe (2024)
Pronouns: She/Her
Contact: eilidh@bingefringe.com