CRAZY GARY’S MOBILE DISCO
by Gary Owen
Paines Plough tour 8 February-5 May 2001.
Runs 2 Hours. No interval.
Review Timothy Ramsden 30 April
Three linked monologues reward staying power.
The soliloquy’s come a long way since Hamlet was wondering whether To Be Or Not. In the 1970s Robert Patrick’s prizewinning Kennedy’s Children dissected the Camelot heritage through intercut solo speeches from six varied Americans. Most recently Conor MacPherson’s Port Authority had three generations of Irishmen interleaving their independent tales.
Gary Owen’s accomplished play (a collaboration between veteran tourers Paines Plough and Welsh new writing enterprise Sgript Cymru) follows another model, the Bush Theatre success Howie the Rookie, where two characters, one a man of violence, the other a ladykiller, told their stories either side of the interval, tales that enmeshed with each other, suddenly bringing the first half’s narrated events into a new light.Crazy Gary dispenses with the interval and offers three characters. First is in-yer-face Gary, yob of the yard, confined in his unreflective world with its narrow moral code led by emotion and self-assertion.
After 40 minutes Gary makes his exit as inconsequentially as he came on to take us by the scruff of the neck and in comes the spangled wannabe cabaret singer Mathew D. Melody. With him, Owen’s dramatic strategy begins to emerge. For Mathew presents us, with equal vividness to Gary’s violent frustration, a fantasy view of the world. Clues in his apparently rational account of events show up his psychic unbalance, the man who kills a cat and disposes of the body in a postbox, all the time shuddering under a cloud of religious guilt.
Mathew’s story touches on events in Gary’s but it’s only with the final story things hang together. For all his cool appearance, leather jacket and beard, Russell Markham is a victim, running from the shame of schoolboy bullying which he describes as if it had happened to someone else, but which clearly scarred his psyche, besides triggering Mathew’s crazy life. Even now, under Russells’s calm, there’s internalised fury at being unable to combat Gary’s frenzied attack on him.
It needs persistence this piece, but it repays the staying power with good work from Richard Mylan as Russell, and outstandingly David Rees Talbot’s Gary and Steven Meo’s Mathew. Vicky Featherstone’s direction is, as always, spot-on precise.