by Michael Pinchbeck.
Runs: 1hr 5min No interval.
Review: Alan Geary 1 December 2011 at Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.
An absorbing hour and five minutes.
There’s a deep obscurity about the start of this play, the latest from Michael Pinchbeck. Actor Ollie Smith (real name) is lying on his back while Pinchbeck is walking round him, chucking paper on him, and repeating the word “dot”.
Although the reason why becomes clearer, the initial obscurity is never completely lifted. This is because the play is looking inwards at itself; it’s poking about at the very concept of theatre, and, by extension, art in general. And this is very mysterious territory.
Pinchbeck and Smith are supposed to be playing themselves, and so they are, but only up to a point. The piece is purporting to be Pinchbeck’s stage swansong (not actually true, we hope) and Smith’s professional debut (true in real life). In terms of text there are beautifully controlled performances from both. And it’s outstanding mime when Smith is running his hands along the invisible wall between the performers and the audience.
There’s a lot of Shakespearean-type play on the words “bare” and “bear”. We’re reminded that some Elizabethan theatres were also bear pits and there’s a disturbing scene – it’s a disturbing play – where Smith is being made by Pinchbeck to dance round and round like a bear. Interestingly, it’s suggested that Shakespeare’s famoyus stage direction (in TRhe Winter’s Tale) “Exit pursued by a bear” is the animal chasing the actor off of his rightful space.
Near the end there’s a sense in which roles have been reversed; instead of Pinchbeck being in charge it seems that Smith is the more dominant of the two. He’s chased the actor off the stage.
The End is an absorbing hour and five minutes, and its obscurity isn’t at all gratuitous.
Cast: Michael Pinchbeck, Ollie Smith.