On Me follows Shona and Christian, a pair of actors performing troubling scenes for a true crime documentary series. As the two develop an undeniable attraction to one other, unsavoury questions hang unanswered and danger looms.
The play focuses on female safety, gender-based violence and male responsibility – including an exploration of the fine lines between being a failed ally, an enabler and a perpetrator – and offers a critique of “true crime”.
In 2022, the play went to the Greater Manchester Fringe, where it won the Manchester Off West End award and was also shortlisted for the Write For The Stage prize for New Writing and for the Fringe’s award for Best Drama.
It was also selected from over 600 entries to be one of three plays performed at the Questors Theatre’s inaugural Festival of New Writing the same year.
CW: References to domestic violence and rape
THE GREEN ROOM. SHONA SITS ALONE AT A TABLE WITH HER FOOD, PLAYING ON HER PHONE. CHRISTIAN ENTERS WITH A SANDWICH.
CHRISTIAN: (AWKWARDLY.) Hellooo.
SHONA: You can’t sit with us.
CHRISTIAN: (NOT SURE HOW TO TAKE THIS.) Alright, Gretchen.
SHONA: Ok. For that, I’ll allow it.
CHRISTIAN: (LAUGHS.) Thought you’d fucking lost it then.
SHONA: I’m on three hours sleep, so…
CHRISTIAN: There is that.
CHRISTIAN SITS. THEY EAT IN SILENCE FOR A MOMENT. SHONA’S STILL MESSING WITH HER PHONE.
SHONA: Deleting Tinder. Since it’s destroying my hopes and dreams.
CHRISTIAN: That’s too bad.
SHONA PUTS HER PHONE AWAY.
SHONA: So you’re pure psycho.
CHRISTIAN: Oh God, I’m really not! You Ok?
SHONA: No, I mean, it was great! Like…
CHRISTIAN: I dunno, I… like, I seem to have this casting type and I struggle with it sometimes. Y’know… “bad guy, bad guy, bad guy”… “rapist”…
SHONA: It’s your dead eyes.
CHRISTIAN: I have dead eyes?
SHONA STUDIES HIS FACE IN SILENCE FOR A MOMENT.
SHONA: Nah, I’m messing.
CHRISTIAN: Fuck’s sake! Stop doing this to me!
THEY LAUGH. THEY EAT AS THEY TALK.
SHONA: Do you always get, like – “charming psychopath”?
CHRISTIAN: Oh yeah.
SHONA: That’s ‘cause you’re pretty.
CHRISTIAN: (BASHFUL.) Nnaaaaahhhhh.
SHONA: Seriously! It’s because you just have this earnest face. Then when you… y’know, turn – it’s so unexpected. And you’re not afraid to look totally out of control and ugly. Crazy eyes. Drooling.
CHRISTIAN: (SNORTS.) Drooling?!
SHONA: I’m kidding.
SHONA: No offence, but I think there’s a guy thing. Male actor thing. Where they get this power trip from playing a bad guy. The Joker effect.
CHRISTIAN: (ROLLS HIS EYES.) God.
SHONA: Y’know: “I’m the only one who can get under this guy’s skin” – or worse, like: “I see how this guy’s misunderstood” or whatever. It’s partly about showing off how talented they are, and how they can see things differently – but I think it’s also more than that. They get to let loose. Chase around some girl in her underwear. And you can tell they’re still trying to look awesome. Posturing. Turning to their good side. Subtly trying to make it… y’know…
CHRISTIAN: (MOUTH FULL.) Sexy.
CHRISTIAN: On behalf of all male actors, I’m sorry.
SHONA: No, see, I don’t think you do that! That’s what I’m saying! You serve the story. Not yourself. You’re generous.
CHRISTIAN: Thank you.
You seen the transcripts from the interview?
SHONA: I didn’t get sent them.
CHRISTIAN: Me either, but I asked for them. They got a bit cagey. Probably worried it’d affect the performance, or whatever. But I did… push… (BEAT.) But maybe it’s good for you not to see them. Make it unfold more / naturally.
SHONA: But you saw them?
CHRISTIAN: I read them, yeah. I thought, if I can feel how real this was… how it affected her… I wouldn’t get carried away like that. Take it more to heart. More seriously. (BEAT.) I dunno. Maybe it was a bad idea. Maybe it’ll send me into my own head.
Anyway, I can’t talk about vanity acting. I used to get dragged at drama school for always trying to be… like… “gorgeous” or whatever. Tammy – that’s my twin, I’ve got a twin sister – she saw me in a showcase and afterwards she was like “stop doing that”. She’s so fucking …balanced compared to me though, like, she posts selfies with no makeup. Barely even looks at them first. She’s not an actor though, and I think it’s a built-in girl actor thing. I’m there being choked against a wall and I’m like “oh, is my chin fat gonna be all pushed up?”. But then I’m like “hey fuck / you!”
CHRISTIAN: Yeah! Maryse would have not given a shit about
her chin fat / right there.
SHONA: Exactly! That poor fucking woman and I’m there in my head perpetuating this shit –
CHRISTIAN: Doesn’t help that they’ve put you in that
(INDICATES HER NIGHTIE).
SHONA: (WINKS AT HIM.) Something for the true crime fanboys.
CHRISTIAN SHUDDERS. SHONA LOOKS BACK AT HER PHONE.
Two minutes. What we on next?
CHRISTIAN: Scene sixteen.
SHONA: Rape scene?
CHRISTIAN: (RELUCTANTLY.) Rape scene.
SHONA HOLDS HER HAND UP GRIMLY FOR A SARCASTIC HIGH FIVE. CHRISTIAN HESITATES, THEN OBLIGES.
THEY CLEAR THEIR THINGS AWAY AND EXIT.
© Caroline Lamb 2022
Dangerous To Know July 2022 Greater Manchester Fringe Production Programme
On Me had its two inaugural performances in 2022 – the first at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London from 18th – 22nd July and the second at The Seven Oaks in Manchester from 27th – 30th July.
Find more production images of Dangerous To Know’s 2022 Greater Manchester Fringe run HERE.
Find more production images of On Me at the Questors Festival of New Theatre 2022 HERE.
The following quotes are from reviews of the play’s production at The Questors Theatre, Ealing, after being selected for its inaugural Festival of New Theatre in July 2022:
“Effective inversion of audience expectations.”
“A complex play with great pace and naturalism.”
“The cast give such engaging performances that the human story of their tentative relationship more than holds its own with the issues raised by the play.”
“Thought-provoking and highly-crafted piece.”
“The audience around me appeared to have been equally moved by the play, as evident by the huge applause at the close.”
“On Me is a powerful play exploring domestic violence through an unusual and interesting frame.”
“It addresses its topics head on.”
The following quotes are from reviews of the play’s 2022 Greater Manchester Fringe production with Dangerous To Know at The Seven Oaks:
“Little in On Me can be taken at face value.”
“A thoughtful examination of a society in which violence against women is accepted as a casual occurrence, often minimised by victims and officials, and the consequent impact upon people who might be regarded as bystanders rather than perpetrators.”
“Director Helen Parry takes a natural approach with a strong emphasis on authenticity. The performances are low-key despite the heated subject matter.”
“Some of the most effective scenes are achieved in silence.”
“Caroline Lamb avoids satirising what some might regard as the excesses of the #MeToo era. There is an almost resigned tone to the play. The fear women feel on a daily basis while simply trying to get home at night is spelt out in a sparse, chilling manner. The confusion experienced by men overly aware of the possible consequences of their actions comes across from Christian’s conflicted behaviour.”
“On Me is a thought-provoking play.”
[British Theatre Guide]
“On Me explores some serious themes, and these are handled with complexity and nuance.”
“On Me is a play that resists easy answers.”
“It steers into the messiness of life with a boldness that is both refreshing and uncomfortable.”
“On Me raises… difficult questions and refuses to give us easy answers. Uncompromising writing from Lamb, careful direction from Parry, and impressive performances from all the cast work together to create a piece of challenging theatre that will stay with you long after it finishes.”
[North Manchester FM]
“Lamb’s script delivers naturalistic, easy dialogue.”
“Every audience member will go away with a different story of ‘what happens next’, probably strongly influenced by their own life experiences. It’s a credit to Lamb’s storytelling skills that this play requires such a strongly worded trigger warning on the way in.”
[The Reviews Hub]
“Caroline Lamb explores the topic incredibly well, the conversations and interactions between characters feel natural and the chemistry between the two actors is evident and believable.”
“This uniquely modern situation – particularly in regard to the rise in true crime/female victim content – is a worthy and thought-provoking addition to a very important and vital conversation.”
“You find yourself holding your breath. You don’t know what will happen, but a sense of unease
overwhelms the room.”
“Caroline Lamb’s script is just about as close to verbatim writing as one could get; it’s visceral, simplistic, and poignant.”
“This play doesn’t pull any punches at all. It considers both sides of the equation, too.”
“Parry had created three separate playing spaces and despite the entire acting area being able to fit on the back of a postage stamp, they worked with it superbly.”
“This was a most sensitively and sensibly directed production, and it has truly made me think. Fully
deserving of a better venue and a wider audience.”
“The casting was first rate, and their acting was genuine, heartfelt, and thoroughly visceral. Superb.”
[Reviewer Number 9]