Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre, Peebles, Thu 13 Dec, then touring. Reviewed at Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow)
ONE MAN SHOW
Critics may well shift awkwardly in their seats during this piece, and it’s nothing to do with the hard benches in the Citz’ circle studio. Irish playwright Conor MacPherson, famed for his Olivier award-winning The Weir here draws a rather basic analogy between theatre hacks and vampires, both feared creatures of the night feeding off the life/art they so parasitically rely on. Yet, as basic, derogatory or uncomfortable a picture as this may be, this particular leech can’t help but be sucked in.
The play focuses on one of the theatre scene’s oldest clichés: a middle-aged, alcoholic male journalist with nothing to live for but his own self-pity. Taking sadistic but unsatisfied pleasure in his ability to make or break careers, he eventually finds himself in a gothic world of vampires and intoxication after falling for a young, beautiful actress and following her from Dublin to London. Scraping the surface of just how low a person can go, the question here is not whether we believe his story, but why on earth we would not.
This is theatre without the trimmings, and it works. Irish actor Peter Dineen, a regular in Father Ted, exudes the subtle performance style of a highly experienced TV actor. His performance isn’t seamless, nor does it need to be. Seeing the gaps and joins in his character adds to the reality of a man desperately passionate in his revelations. MacPherson’s script, littered with expletives and Irish slang, is lyrical and the themes are subtle. While it’s a play about who we are and what we believe, it is also about an individual’s rather pathetic existence, the one predicament becoming inextricable from the other.
Some slightly clunky lighting changes do nothing to add to the atmosphere, but the suspense is there from the outset. The production is not recommended for under 16s, but is absolutely recommended for everyone else.