by Rob Hayes.

Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 6 February 2016.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 January.

Rapid-fire spilling of frustration and desire.
A rapid-fire exposé of male desire, in a solo performance where Ben Whybrow displays impeccable memory and considerable energy, if at some moments edging beyond the boundary of clear articulation, this apparently presents three characters. As neither performance nor production make this clear, I took it that writer Rob Hayes was showing several facets of one person’s emotional make-up.

I don’t think it matters. Literary and dramatic criticism has often enough decided that distinct characters in a drama could be viewed as aspects of one person, and so it could be here – and if it’s so important they shouldn’t be, then the playwright, or director Clive Judd, should have made the distinction clearer.

There are certainly distinct sections as Whybrow switches suddenly from confident flow of words to tonal diffidence, and in some more anguished passages addresses a flashing (and ultimately smashing) bare bulb in fits of masturbatory rhythms. Anguished effort also reflects some twelve days of constipation piling-up in sexual frustration as the piece proceeds on a platform stage decorated only with a lavatory.

Sensuality may be a human necessity here; it doesn’t offer human or emotional pleasure. But it resonates with the enthusiasm of musical ambition in the play, the keen desire to write advertising jungles. Not since Harold Brighouse, in Mary’s John, created a character whose particular gift in the rare category of good writer of bad verse opened-up a commercially successful career as a writer of greetings-card verses, has the limit of imagination and skill been so dramatically defined in artistic terms.

It is certainly forceful, and relentless. But the aptly bare staging, placing the actor on a platform that has implications of a square boxing-ring, or a mountebank’s stage, brings an oppositional feel, as if a newly-energised Ancient Mariner were obsessively hectoring the world with a confused array of dilemmas. We might sympathise, find echoes in our own experience.

Or we might feel he’s brought troubles on his hyperactive self (it’s here the question of how many voices are involved might begin to matter) and is protesting too much for anyone else to care.

Performer: Ben Whybrow.

Director: Clive Judd.
Designer: Jemima Robinson.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Sound: Giles Thomas.

2016-01-22 14:23:32

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