by Donald Margulies.
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre 410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH to 4 January 2015.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm no performance 14, 15, 23 – 27, 31 Dec, 1 Jan.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 10 December.
Terrific tall tales told terribly well.
The “What to put on at Christmas?” dilemma theatres face has been splendidly solved by Jack Studio Artistic Director Kate Bannister, with this funny, but sad tale of a Victorian fantasist who both lived his dream and outlived it.
Donald Margulies’ play tells about Louis de Rougemont (1847 – 1921), famous for the tales of his adventures in the South Seas and the Australian outback published in ‘The Wide World Magazine’, but whose celebrity vanished when people started questioning whether any of his tales were true.
The story is told by Louis, a tour de force from Tony Taylor, a man possessed of the most evocative eyebrows imaginable. He convinces, charms, yet plants just the slightest seed of doubt in the listener’s mind, perfectly.
He is aided by Rochelle Rose and Robert Durbin, who perform all the other people in the saga with relish and skill. Rose’s devoted mama, her swaggering not to be trusted sea-captain and grass-skirted Aborigine maiden, with whom de Rougemont sets up married life, are glorious to behold.
As for Durbin, his dog Bruno, who befriends Louis, is the best dog ever to grace any stage. Durbin’s ability to loll his tongue, roll his eyes and – metaphorically – wag his tail is astounding. His Queen Victoria is arguably the best performance ever given by an actor on his knees.
Bannister directs with flair, devising ways of making her cast of three look like one of thousands, creating clever effects with props, including how to make three people look like a horde of marauding cannibals, using a few mops, and sound effects.
There is a handsome set by Dave Benson, and a final farewell from Louis that is totally unexpected. Margulies aimed to strip away the trappings of spectacle and get back to what the theatre does best, – tell stories. “I set out to tell a ripping good yarn, the sort of narrative that captivated me when I was a boy,” he added.
Aim achieved. This is an enthralling, funny evening, a perfect Christmas night out. As for Louis, he now lies in Kensal Green cemetery.
Louis de Rougemont: Tony Taylor.
Player 1: Rochelle Rose.
Player 2: Robert Durbin.
Director: Kate Bannister.
Designer: Dave Benson.
Lighting: William Ingham.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Costume: Martin Robinson.
Assistant director: Suvi Peisanen.