A Play A Pie and A Pint: His Final Bow
Superb two-hander meditates on the performances and evil deeds of men
There is dying onstage, then there is DYING onstage. Peter Arnott's slow-burner for PPP bears many of his trademarks, such as dense, intellectual dialogue punctured by moments of real knockabout comedy. This one though, is an extended riff on how some people struggle to reconcile real life with performance. Ken Alexander directs a brilliant twosome in the shape of Alex Fthenakis as sweet, starstruck young Davey, a gullible right-hand man to thespian John Wilkes Booth (James Mackenzie) the inveterate bigot who has killed President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 at Ford Theatre, in opposition to the President's libertarian values. The men have fled, with Wilkes Booth hobbling on crutches, and are hiding out from the Bluecoats, The US Federation Army.
Mackenzie's bullish rhetoric of course cannot help but draw modern-day parallels with the present-day President Trump, indeed, there is an allusion to 'alternative facts', and a focus on a man impervious to even the smallest slight in criticism. He even has the daily newspaper's headlines on his murder read to him as a stinging critique. There is much too in the way of Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with overwrought gestures of melodrama ticklishly portrayed, culminating in a re-branding of Wilkes Booth as a simple, misunderstood soul, with a nod to his role as Shakespeare's Brutus in Julius Caesar interlaced into the narrative, replete with a soppy soundtrack, running counter to the splenetic, racist monologues about America as a 'racial melange'.
Knotty and bold, the script's tone turns and turns again, with Davey's realisation that the man he idolised is an extremist, always 'on', a narcissist of the worst kind. Fthenakis and Mackenzie are both excellent, by turns savage and subtle. The irony, Arnott suggests, is that Wilkes Booth sealed his fate on that day, remembered as an assassin forever, not one who 'slayed' people while enjoying a successful acting career.
A co-production between Oran Mor, Traverse theatre and Aberdeen Performing Arts. Reviewed at Oran Mor.