THE DRAWER BOY
by Michael Healey.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 14 July 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Captioned 7 July 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 June.
Intense, superbly-acted production suits a strong script.
Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille was producing documentary and verbatim theatre in the early 1970s, including the near-verbatim Farm Show, built from actors’ experiences living and working alongside farmers.
Canadian playwright Michael Healey draws here on Passe Muraille’s experiment for his own imagined story, as actor Miles visits a farm run by two brothers. The older men’s lives rumble on, Angus affected by memory loss following a wartime accident, Morgan keeping things going in the fields.
It received rave reviews at Glasgow’s Tron in 2008, but a (different) production made it seem tedious. Fortunately director Eleanor Rhode’s success with Healey’s Generous at the Finborough, and that play’s qualities, made a visit worth risking. It turns out, as play, production and in its three performances, thrilling.
There’s humour, as a reluctant Morgan gives Miles misinformation and ridiculous tasks, like washing gravel. But there’s concern beneath his coldness; a wish to protect his brother. Yet it’s the quietly insistent Miles, determined to collect material for his show, who releases Angus from his years-long imprisonment within the moment.
Always inclined to the creative – ‘the drawer boy’, young Angus, designed buildings – he responds to Miles’ stories from Shakespeare, before insistence on telling his own story revives memories, unlocking the devastating incident that lost him his love and memory together.
Molly Einchcomb’s minimal rightly ignores realism, creating a space where the shifting relationships are freely expressed. And Rhode’s direction rightly opts for the intensity of tight-lipped emotions, reserving the one outburst for Angus’s moment of rebellion.
Simon Lee Phillips’ Miles retains the reserved of an observer, Neil McCaul gives Morgan integrity and fear for his brother, while John Bett’s Angus is beautifully-observed, his strong features ever-questioning in the darkness surrounding his eternal now of existence, physical actions starting or being interrupted with a precise timing of mental processes, the voice showing the start of panic as oblivion kicks in. In contrast, there’s the calm of listening to Miles’ stories and the excitement of starting his own. A fine performance in a fine production of a play by a writer of whom we should see much more.
Angus: John Bett.
Morgan: Neil McCaul.
Miles: Simon Lee Phillips.
Director: Eleanor Rhode.
Designer/Costume: Molly Einchcomb.
Lighting: Howard Huidson.
Sound/Composer: George Dennis.