HAMMER & TONGS
by Daniel Jamieson.
Tour to 12 April 2014.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 April at Jacksons Lane Highgate.
Playing fast and loose with reality in the fantasy stage-world of hard knocks.
Though there have been personnel changes in the history of Exeter-based Theatre Alibi, its core members, on stage and elsewhere, have been around some time now. A steady ensemble is much-prized, as in the company’s early links with Poland’s Gardzienice Theatre. After a Gardzienice performance in Hammersmith Alibi founder-director Tim Spicer referred to a moment where an actor had leapt from a platform to be caught by other members of the company. You don’t, said Spicer, do that with someone you don’t know.
But working together can bring tensions. And confusion. Where does reality stop and imagination begin? When the creative whirl calms down are you left wondering where in someone’s psyche that came from?
There are temporary grudges – actors resenting a demanding scene created by a writer at his keyboard, making physically demanding scenes for them to handle. Yet when they make choices themselves things can also be problematic – who is going to play the DJ no-one’s keen to act?
Beneath lie various meanings of play. It’s what actors do. And children. A childish battle turns into adult argument, ironically stopping when the parents are caught rowing by their son.
So, what is real and what not? Hard to say, as Daniel Jamieson’s script repeatedly creates scenes as real as anything ever is on stage, only to pull the dramatic reality away. It’s summed up when two actors play characters, who are themselves actors, the grief of one being subsumed within a dream that becomes a nightmare.
It’s beautifully voiced by Jordan Whyte’s Duggan, writer Daniel Jamieson’s unintellectual trouper. Jamieson is real, and really created these scenes – though their ‘phone-call to him, using a real audience member’s ‘phone, leads to a faked session. So real, or surreal?
Different agendas emerge, as do long-held feelings, within the actors the actors are acting. It’s often witty and hits home convincingly on the tensions possible in the best-run companies. Eighty minutes, though, is a long-time to sustain variety and keep up clowning based on performers’ stage personae. It’s funny and intriguing, but less so as it goes on without consistently developing.
Swanny: Derek Frood.
Fret: Thomas Johnson.
Duggan: Jordan Whyte.
Spurge: Michael Wagg.
Director: Nikki Sved.
Designer: Trina Bramman.
Lighting: Dominic Jeffery.
Sound: Duncan Chave.
Composer/Musical Director: Thomas Johnson.