Tensile Strength at Oldham Coliseum
Tensile Strength, written and performed by Holly Gallagher, completed its tour at the Oldham Coliseum last night. It’s a three stranded semi-autobiographical monologue about stress, with breaks where Holly steps out of character and engages the audience directly. It works.
The three strands are a man who’s just become a father who can’t cope, a very bright young woman who can’t find a job, and a couple who’ve outstayed their welcome. I could picture all of them quite clearly. All of these unseen characters have reached breaking point, and the monologue is about survival when you find yourself in such a state.
On entering the studio Holly was already on stage behind a small desk, from which she performs, surrounded by a sea of buckets. These are a metaphor for life: unless you stop filling them they’ll eventually overflow. There are two main ways to avoid this. The first is to stop cramming things into life before you’re overwhelmed. The other is to pause and let some water out before adding more. Both can be difficult to achieve when you’re already at your wit’s end. A third possible option is to ask for help – but that can be the hardest of all.
It was a good performance, and in the moments where Holly steps from behind her desk we learned that the topic was very close to her own experience of life.
The studio was the perfect setting for the performance and I left it feeling just that little bit wiser.
Paul Schofield for Canal St Online