TOBACCO FACTORY THEATRES – SPIELMAN THEATRE – TILL 4 MAY 2019 & TOUR
KEEP ON WALKING FEDERICO
RUNNING TIME – 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES
Tobacco Factory Theatres Box Office – 0117 902 0344
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 2 MAY 2019
I have only had the pleasure of seeing Mark Lockyer on stage once before, at the National Theatre in London as the Duke of York in the original production of Alan Bennett’s ‘The Madness of George III’ in 1991. I have, however, been aware of some of his story – not least his breakdown whilst performing in ‘Romeo & Juliet’, and his subsequent diagnosis with a bipolar condition. One of his ways of coping with this was to bring this part of his life to the stage in his one-man show ‘Living With the Lights On’.
Now, Mark is exploring another aspect of his life – coping with the loss of his parents and a desire to reconnect with them – particularly with his Father. Prompted by a letter he has received, Mark travels to Spain and, in ‘Keep on Walking Federico’, he tells the story of this trip.
This is theatre in its purest form; no gimmicks, no unsubstantiated blatherings from a director, no trendy casting options – no, this is theatre where the story and the performer are paramount and both shine like a jewel in a confused world.
Mark Lockyer is a very genial performer – in light summery clothes and barefoot for most of the play, he captivates his audience. Engaging and modest, his own story is full of colourful characters which he brings to life with an ease which is joyful; the overweight Dutch neighbour Daamon, the mysterious Dr Bueno, the café owner Pepe and the seductive and troubled Ramona. We instantly picture these people as Lockyer uses his immense physical and vocal skills to present them without the use of props or costume.
Everyday, well-observed humour provides a counterpoint to the deeply sensitive and emotional episodes in the story – the quiet stillness as he speaks the words of his Mother as she describes saving her son from being strangled by his Father is a poignant and brilliantly realised moment.
A single café chair and table sit on a sand strewn Moorish tiled floor. Props are cleverly concealed in piles of sand which are revealed as required – not least the book of Spanish poetry which provides immense comfort. A simple but very effective lighting and sound plot bring great context to this most intimate of productions.
As the story unfolds you are able to hear yourself gasp a few times, laugh a lot and feel a lump gather in the back of your throat. After 75 minutes, Mark reaches the climax of his story as he realises he has completed what he set out to do in Spain. He has responded to the letter he received and has found out quite a lot about his life and how he can move on from grief. The audience sits in silence as he leaves the stage – one wants to break it. There is a stillness. We have been royally entertained and I, for one, could have sat through more. The applause for the writer and performer is full of affection and admiration.
‘Keep on Walking Federico’ is that rare commodity these days – honest theatre. It hides behind nothing. It is directed with admirable restraint by Alice Malin and written and performed with openness and supreme skill by Mark Lockyer. It is a production to be treasured and admired and one which the Actors Touring Company should be mightily proud of.
WRITER & PERFORMER – MARK LOCKYER
DIRECTOR – ALICE MALIN
LIGHTNG DESIGN – CHRISTOPHER NAIRNE
COMPOSER & SOUND DESIGN – MAX PAPPENHEIM
STAGE MANAGER – CAITLIN O’REILLY
PHOTOGRAPH CREDIT – RICHARD LAKOS
AN ACTORS TOURING COMPANY PRODUCTION