HE WORE A RED HAT
by Jack McNamara.
Tour to 20 December 2015.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 November at Gretton Village Hall.
A ‘Festive Noir’ that’s more noir than festive.
“Cut the cackle and get to the ’osses,” demanded 19th-century showman Andrew Ducrow, of Astley’s Circus. New Perspectives’ Jack McNamara does the opposite; his play, for 12+, features a poet (of sorts) but no horses.
Yet they were in his mind, from accounts of Northamptonshire police asking horse-riders to help patrol rural acres, reporting suspicious behaviour. Horses and village halls having their incompatibilities, McNamara’s poet-detective rides a bike instead.
Josh Rogan is unfailingly amiable. Unfortunately, he’s less successful as versifier or amateur sleuth. Yet his self-confidence gains him the dogged loyalty of a keen if inexpressive Protégé. Gerry Howell’s cycles on, circlings the stage, while Mufaro Makubika trudges on after him, entrances that define their difference characters.
Neither matches the surprise entry of the other character, Gwynne, consistently mispronounced by Joss as ‘Gwyne’ (rhyming with ‘wine’, instead of ‘win’). It’s not the only surprise Kate Kordel’s character will spring.
Kordel and Makubika are clear in the contrasting tones they provide. But Gerry Howell carries the main acting burden. He captures well the eccentric’s certainty and keenness to confide in his project, finding an unshared humour in what he says and having his technical assistant wear the masks of two notable 20th-century American-born poets who lived in England (a pattern Josh, unusually, doesn’t pick up on).
As for his deductions, he provides the clearest example of intelligence outwitting sense since the clue-‘solving’ of the title character in Tim Firth’s Neville’s Island.
There are times McNamara as director might have urged more pace upon Howell. The play’s detection aspect is handled in a comic way, but it is significant in thwarting the aspirations of the characters, yet never really gains momentum.
Though Howell had something else in his mind in Gretton. After New Perspectives enthused publically over another real-life link – Cambridgeshire constabulary, like Josh, using skype to gather evidence – the play’s promised pictures never appeared, leaving the actor to handle the situation (well) and a huge blank screen which, with a stepladder, comprises the set for what, after the Unicorn’s Baddies, is starting to seem, theatrically, an Austerity Christmas.
Josh Rogan: Gerry Howell.
Protégé: Mufaro Makubika.
Gwyne: Kate Kordel.
On screen: Martin Miller, Jennifer Derbyshire, Alison Dunne, Neil May, Michael Kenneth Stewart.
Director: Jack McNamara.
Designer: Hyemi Shin.
Lighting: Alex Stafford.
Sound: Adam McCready.
Film: Jan Stöckel.
18 Nov 7pm Shirebrook Village Hall 01623 742475
19 Nov 7.30pm Eastham Memorial Hall 01584 781255 www.liveandlocal.org.uk
20 Nov 7.30pm Melbourne Assembly Rooms 01332 863522 www.ticketsource.co.uk
21 Nov 7pm Glebe Field Centre Crich 01773 853260, www.ticketsource.co.uk
22 Nov 7pm Kineton Sports & Social Club 01926 641024, www.liveandlocal.org.uk
26 Nov 7.30pm St Helen’s Parish Hall Stapleford 01159 391818, www.villageventures.org.uk
27 Nov 7.30pm Thrumpton Village Hall 01159 830373.
28 Nov 7.30pm Thomas Cranmer Centre Aslockton 01949 850600.
3 Dec 7.30pm Broadbent Theatre Lincoln 01673 885500, www.ticketsource.co.uk
4 Dec 7.30pm Tennyson D’Eyncourt Memorial Hall Tealby 01673 838718 www.lincsruraltouring.co.uk
5 Dec 7.30pm Palace Community Centre Ibstock 01530 267303.
6 Dec 4.30pm Gayton Parish Church 01604859444 www.northantstouringarts.co.uk
9 Dec 7pm St Joseph’s Parish Hall Houghton 07900 695782/01254 852522.
10 Dec 7.30pm Fleetwood Library 0300 1236703.
12 Dec 7.30pm Fountain Square Church Tideswell 01298 871063 www.ticketsource.co.uk
13 Dec 7.30pm Parwich Memorial Hall 0115 927 2334 www.ticketsource.co.uk
17 Dec 7.30pm Hamsterley Village Hall 01388 488323 www.ticketsource.co.uk
18 Dec 7.30pm Middleton & Todridge Village Hall 01670 772600.
19 Dec 7.30pm Tirril Reading Rooms 01768 895330.
20 Dec 7pm The Old Fire Station Carlisle 01228 598596 www.skiddle.com