THE FOURTH WISE MAN
by Purni Morell.
Unicorn Theatre (The Clore) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 4 January 2015.
11.15am 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31 Dec, 2 Jan
1.45pm 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31 Dec, 2-4 Jan.
Runs 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.
Quietly enjoyable desert drama with a sidelong seasonal look.
Accounts of a fourth Wise Man following a bright star to Bethlehem but arriving too late to find the Holy Family have long been apocryphally around. In her telling, for 4+, Unicorn Artistic Director Purni Morell makes it the story of a man searching far and wide for happiness before finding it waiting at home.
Purnell’s Wise Man, Artaban, is not all that wise, though his ambitions are for ever-more knowledge, rather than money or power. His wife Samira gets on with cultivating heir garden, as Voltaire recommended in Candide. Metaphorically though; she actually goes to a potting-shed and makes useful, attractive pottery while her husband fruitlessly speculates about the world, before hesitantly setting-off to see if the bright new star in the sky can bring new sense to his life.
He equips himself with a camel, a poor creature according to its owner (spoken, like several other brief roles, by Attab Haddad between his atmosphere-invoking musical contributions). It turns-out a better purchase than many more obvious sources of knowledge, accompanying Artaban on the way and saving his life.
Haddad’s atmospheric playing of the oud bathes the action in Middle East tradition, with a laptop for everything else, helping also to set the deliberate pace measured by Artaban’s camel. The creature’s played by Ritu Arya with expressive detail, from the eternal chewing and indolence of early days to the sensible suggestions which become needed. Greatly as they contrast, the quietly bright wife and slow-paced practical animal both possess the sense missing from Artaban’s fertile, if shallow-rooted mind.
Verity Quinn’s set uses three separate islands in the Clore auditorium leaving a sense of space for the journey, while the star hangs above shining over Artaban’s ill-focused aspirations. In this spacious-seeming world, Lee Lyford’s production evokes a sense of ordinary lives suddenly meeting the extraordinary, and learning even when missing out on the central attraction.
Events unfold steadily at a camel’s pace (which is different from a snail’s) as Philip Arditti shows Artaban’s hopeful aspirations and practical inadequacies while remaining sympathetic as difficulties arise and are overcome in this quietly enjoyable piece.
Artaban: Philip Ardiitti.
Samira: Ritu Arya.
Musician: Attab Haddad.
Director: Lee Lyford.
Designer/Costume: Verity Quinn
Lighting: Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn.
Sound: Malachy Orozco.
Composer: Attab Haddad.