Wednesday, 25 August, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Underbelly – 5-29 August 2010 – 19.00 (1.10)

Bells and Whistles!

Telling the nightmare tale of giant monocled goldfish, shopping precincts and the end of history through a unique multimedia experience via the conduit of one of the rising stars of Bristol attending Pedestrian carries with it an aura of excited anticipation.

Pedestrian was touted as some sort of multimedia extravaganza, with a performance that interacted with projections and imaginative use of music. This was true, for the first 5 minutes. Then the rest  of the show is performed in front of a image like the screen from guitar hero that moves disconcertingly; achieving nothing more than distracting from the performance. It’s frustrating, it’s like saying here’s what you could have seen.

Tom Wainwrights performance is excellent, it takes a great solo performer to fill a running time of over an hour with a single continuous monologue forged out of a series of interconnected poems. His writing is also fair to middling, with a decent turn of phrase and a pay off at the end which deserves more recognition than it will get through this production:

‘I’m not the worlds only apocalyptic poet’ Tom announces after 90 percent of the shows running time has passed. Then as all good poets apocalyptic poets should, he hits the audience with his unique view of the world, turns the entire performance into a cyclical nightmare referencing Fukuyama’s ‘End of history’ and exits with assured aplomb.

There’s a problem though, by this stage the show has dragged on for an hour and all Tom’s energetic antics can’t hide a lack of the truly original insight which would carries the audiences attention. This show shouldn’t have lasted the hour and ten minutes billed in the fringe programme, it should only have been 45 minutes long and it certainly shouldn’t have been its actual running time of an hour and twenty minutes.

If you are going to ask an audience to watch one man stand in one place for over an hour, then you’d better have more than just bells and whistles to entertain them. A particular example of this is Tom Wainwright’s investigation of coffee shop culture.

In what is a well written and presented section the audience are asked to invest their attention through several stanza’s of increasingly heightened material by the end of which nothing new or interesting has been discovered. The image of monocled  goldfish drinking a latte though interesting in itself does not add to the public consciousness about what is already well covered ground.

What happens then, is that engaging the audience so well on this topic (of no substance and no end-product) serves only to betray the trust of the audience.

Other well cited examples include – the friend who taps you on the opposite shoulder all day – the boy who cried wolf – and – the child who says ‘look over there’ while stealing your last polo mint – eventually you are going to wise up and not take your attention off your sweeties. And with theatre  and adults, particularly at the fringe, you had better be sure that all your material is worthy of attention otherwise by the time you get to the heart of what you want to say no one will be listening.

So, by the time the grand theme of the show (which is not trailed at any point leaving the show feeling one dimensional for the first hour) has been revealed – sections of the audience are jaded and unreceptive – experiencing a sense of disillusionment and unfulfilled self entitlement.  All of the hard work by Tom Wainwright, all his mugging for the audience, all his flailing limbs and carefully crafted facial expressions are for naught.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Tom Wainwright – Himself.

Company Credits: Writer – Tom Wainwright. Director – Amelia Sears. Design – Simon Kenny. Music – Simon Wainwright. Company – Theatre Bristol and SEArED in association with Bristol Old Vic

(c) Stephen Redman

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