Siren Theatre Company & Red Line Productions
Old Fitz Theatre
Directed by Kate Gaul
Performed by Thomas Campbell
Inishfree might seem like a quaint Irish town, but fierce evangelist Thomas Magill knows better. He knows jovial Dwain Flynn is a miserable drunk, that Timmy O’Leary enslaves his lovely mother and that sweet Mrs Cleary is a blasphemous flirt.
It is down to Thomas, with God on his shoulder, to save this sinful place. But the townsfolk are not listening, an angel is misbehaving and a barking dog will not be silenced. Just how far will Thomas go in his quest for salvation?
Review – Misterman, though a well written play by renowned Irish playwright Enda Walsh, one hander plays are most of the time a punish to endure, they are linear and often feel forced. It is very difficult for an actor to engage in only his/her own energy which bounces off the walls and their audience. Self engagement their only real outlet, with possible choices of breaking the fourth wall or morphing of the many characters they have to produce…It quite often always feels like a reach that never fully extends. That, or you have an actor on stage with so many jobs to do it’s like watching a game of arcade pinball.
In this production, it felt very much like watching a human pinball bounce from moment to moment and most times from mess to mess. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the writing and I love Irish plays, but one handers just never fully satisfy my theatrical palette. The stakes for the performer are very high. Thomas Campbell who performed the role of Thomas Magill, with a passionate determination and focus carried himself well considering the density of the piece, the many characters he flowed in and out of and the very dark subject matters and characteristics that emerged. The character of Thomas Magill is intriguing, the narrative full of humour and horror making for a beautiful contrasting combination in a piece of theatre.
This contrast was not well executed by director Kate Gaul whose directing felt both rushed and unclear, with the characters objectives and intentions never fully surfacing as sharply as they needed to be. Thomas’ raging evangelism spiral didn’t come through to its full potential, and though there were some bright moments that were assisted by a very comprehensive and supporting sound design by Nate Edmondson, the staging of the piece was all too much. Set design was a mixture of nostalgic nods, suggested sugar addictions and clutter, to which grew as the play continued, with the addition of falling water, biscuits and costumes falling from “the fly” of the quaint Old Fitz space. Whatever it was Gaul was trying to execute felt gimmicky. It also felt a top-heavy job for Campbell whose physical scoring echoed that he was on a time frame that he must keep up with. There was just so much going on all the time, the production felt linear and half-baked. When it came to the climax of the piece I was so exhausted from watching Campbell jump through so many hoops I didn’t even care. This show needs to be much simpler in staging, there is so much for Campbell to focus on in his character work (which needed more attention) the set and staging elements simply drowned him. Gaul has a long history of directing and well-known in her community for her productions, this show felt un polished and below the standards expected from a director of her experience. Her casting I feel for this was not all together right, a more dramaturgical based actor is needed for this calibre of writing talent.
As Gaul stated in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, I quote, “If I said it was for advanced theatregoers, I don’t think I would be lying. It’s in the tradition of everyone from James Joyce to Beckett and everyone in between. Please, if you don’t like Irish monologues, don’t come!”
If you do consider yourself an advance theatre goer, your expectations will unfortunately not be fully met in Gaul’s production of Misterman, and I agree, if you don’t like monologues perhaps give it a miss, but then again, I’m always hoping to be pleasantly surprised one day by the execution of one which is why I keep attending them. Sadly Gaul’s Misterman, missed the mark.
Photo credit: Diana Popovska