Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness
Within the gilded Victorian glory of the Citizen’s Theatre, the extraordinary spectacle that is Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness has come to entertain and astound.
The stage set, a recreation of a music hall theatre, promises, in bold Victorian font, that the show will be: ‘extraordinary’; the audience will witness ‘unique visions’ and ‘terrible truths’ and it will all be ‘astonishing’. The backdrop also informs the audience that: ‘Every land and clime searched for tragedy’ – all in yer face, boastful promises that surely must be reneged upon on this small stage within a small stage in the Gorbals.
This production of Anthony Neilson’s play, directed here by Steve Marmion (an assistant director on the original production) fulfils all those promises and more. The cast and crew recreate a world of imagined Victoriana where Britannia rules the waves, an Englishman can scale the Himalaya in a tweed suit and where the ladies and gentlemen of the audience need to be warned that a ‘black’ will soon be taking the stage.
The set is a beautifully rendered piece of cod-Victorian engineering that transports the audience from having a god-like view of our planet to Rome, to Scilly, to the Gentlemen’s Club in the Rangoon Grand, via the opium dens of Hastings, to the mountain retreat of Ranjeev the Uncomplicated, to…to places that should not be read about, but witnessed.
The cast threw themselves into their (many) parts with gusto and carried the audience with them all the way. Simon Kunz, as Gant and Sam Cox as Sergeant Jack Dearlove seem to have been transported from the late 1800’s, so closely do their physiognomies fit their characters. Emma Handy as Madame Poulet and Paul Barnhill as Nicholas Ludd are no less impressive and project their characters from the soles of their shoes to the back of the gods.
This is the most enjoyable theatre production I have seen in a long time. My only criticism is that the play ends abruptly, but I can live with that. Politically incorrect: ‘An old Indian fakir.’ Bawdy: ‘Jammy Ring?’ – ‘No, no I used a doc leaf.’ Crude: ‘Does that mean I can take off my abortion?’ Clever: But this is a play that is more than mere whimsy – it never loses its grasp on its gut-wrenching central premise - that loneliness is a fate worse than death.