by Daniel Jamieson.
Theatre Alibi Tour to 19 April 2011.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 March at The North Wall Oxford.
Intriguing fantasy of innocence caught up in wartime experiences.
Any history of war is famously a history of the winner’s version, in which the loser is wrong and the victors not only right; but honourable – and sensible. So we tend not to hear about Britain’s enlistment of mystics, or the nasty schemes dreamed up in secret research stations. James Bond’s trick equipment came from the kind of ideas and devices his creator Ian Fleming had seen in wartime intelligence work.
Suppose Bond had possessed the moral conscience of a George Orwell. The impact of creating fiendish devices to booby-trap enemies might have led to something like the experience of Daniel Jamieson’s clergyman Donald Goucher. His imagination is darker than he might like to think as a married pillar of the community, reading to local schoolchildren from his books about the resourceful pig Hiawyn.
The headmaster rebukes a girl who has clearly been trying out some of Hiawyn’s tricks on her neighbour. Hiawyn, says the head, is a fictional pig. His tricks are not for real life. But a quirk of information-passing means Goucher’s fiendish story devices do spring to life, and the man of peace finds he’s designing deadly weapons.
Jamieson’s story intrigues, though in Nikki Sved’s production it keeps the audience from engagement by focusing on events rather than character complexity. And designer Trina Bramman, returning after last spring’s Alibi tour The Ministry of Fear, creates another a-centric collage of scenic pieces. The overall effect resembles a re-run of Ministry’s tense mid-century political tensions, but without Graham Greene’s exploration of treachery and the human soul.
Instead emphasis falls on the horrors brought to life in Tim (Forkbeard Fantasy) Britton’s drawings, first of a Hiawyn children’s story, then of the nightmare the creature becomes – visualised as a huge pig lowering under the sleeping Goucher’s bed – and the stories showing it in grotesque disguises among the Germans, dealing out concealed explosives.
Close-up the acting’s artifice can show in the performances. Yet Alibi regulars Derek Frood and Jordan Whyte play their type-characters with confident lightness while Michael Wagg, with an Orwellian appearance, moves convincingly from happy innocence to angst-ridden withdrawal.
Goucher: Michael Wagg.
Gwyneth/Viv/Dot: Jordan Whyte.
Pynchon/Headmaster/Gibbons: Derek Frood.
Musician: Finn Beames.
Director: Nikki Sved.
Designer: Trina Bramman.
Lighting: Marcus Bartlett.
Sound: Duncan Chave.
Composer/Musical Director: Thomas Johnson.
Drawings/Animation: Tim Britton.
Assistant designer: Bek Palmer.