Ego sum rosea ergo sum spam. Or something like that.
Chasing Beckett is a two-man comedy show created by Andersson Productions. It follows the story of Hugh Moncrieffe, a pompous and perverted film reviewer who is hijacked by the psychotic and disaffected Alex. Central to this production though, is a developing confusion about the reality of these roles.
I spoke briefly with playwright John Hill about the origin of this story. He said he was moved to write the play after reading an article about the severe treatment of theatre reviewers. He spoke of disillusioned patrons who, ‘Shoved dog shit into people’s letterboxes.’ A perfectly Hammurabian retribution if you ask me. The beaming Mr Hill also described the crudity of laughing at one’s own material. He nonetheless couldn’t hold back a self-indulgent chuckle or two. And who am I to blame him, considering I behaved accordingly?
The stage layout was a relatively bare bones affair and the seating arrangement strangely significant. There is always something cosy about a theatre where the extension of a leg can alter the position the actors must take. I found myself retracting a limb or two on more than one occasion in an undeniable show of graciousness. Oh the benevolence!
There was a recurrent and ever-present concept that ran throughout: Irony, the sweetest of all comedies, although often blatantly referenced to, was a central motif of the production. I can appreciate the irony, as I’m sure many could, of being given the job of reviewing a show about a show reviewer. One should tread lightly if crushing theatre about a man who crushes theatre, especially after spending a night inside this writer’s psyche.
With all due respect to the originality of the scenario, the realised plot lines never seemed to veer far from their predictable paths. The first act was most guilty of this, and had an unfortunate lasting effect. In contrast, developments in the second act were more tangential and exciting. Although I can’t imagine any patron being ferried off to hospital to remove the proverbial stitches they were sewed in; it is, however, undeniable that humourous quips were an ever-present feature.
Ripples of laughter noticeably permeated amongst the audience. Whilst they never threatened to burst into stream form, reactions were produced at their intended stages. After the show, there were murmurs that seemed to express the general public’s pleasure in the whole affair, so who am I to go against public opinion? Our less than heroic protagonist had his own opinion on this, ‘If only the huddled masses knew what we do for our art.’ Hugh, what the people deserve is an honest and fair description of one’s appraisal.
Your humble author would be a dirty little fibber if he did not admit foresight of the likely ending; however, it was executed with a level of class that befits any fringe production. There were some notable lacks of execution from the performers; this should be put down to opening night jitters rather than a systemic failure of the production team. A tale of two accents was the unfortunate downfall of our rosy lead, Gary Heron. Noticeable accentuation changes were clear when pitch levels were raised. Jamie Treacher in his role as Alex was prone to a disengaging blunder or two, but was not without effective execution in his performance.
Although I would not limit credit to just one aspect, I must point to it where it is due. I found myself, perhaps in solitude, chuckling at a subtle implication here and a witty reference there. This aspect may go unappreciated by some audience members; or perhaps even by intent will alienate the many to enthral the few. Whatever the intention, these were the moments that held the most staying power with your humble author.
More a rump than a romp, more hum drum than ‘symbol’ic. An interesting idea executed in decent fashion. A stronger first act would see this pushed towards quite a good production. Currently though, it sits as a solid but clearly inspired example of fringe theatre.
[As seen on 9th October 2012]
The premiere of this production will run until October 14th at The London Theatre, right in New Cross. Normally, Admission is £10, however, Goldsmiths students pay £5.
Written by John Hill
Directed by Jennifer Tang
Composer/Sound Designer: Ben Osborn
Designer: Mark Friend
Fight Director: Andrei Zayats
Poster and Flyer Design: Jo Bowden
Production Assistant: Mirain Jones