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Stacy, by Jack Thorne

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Refreshingly perceptive

PlayOn Thetare Company, @Zoo Roxy, The Den 16th August  15:00pm 18th-28th August

Stacy’s only character is sat on stage before the play begins, Rob played by Nick McQuillan smiles at the audience with all the self-deprecation of a newly adult male who hasn’t quite got a grasp of the adult world. By Rob’s own emission he was much better at being a child.

A friendly thumbs up marks the beginning of Nick McQuillin’s performance, a retelling of the day after he slept with his best friend Stacy; he’s not in love with her but he still loves her. Rob doesn’t seem to really understand what he means by this, at least he cannot articulate what he means. Nick McQuillin’s performance encapsulates the hesitance of this character perfectly, with jolting physicality and halting but optimistic vocalisation which straddles the line between side-splittingly funny and heartbreaking in a matter of seconds.  This is a production that reflects reality with astute perfection, the conversational, incredibly candid writing combined with Nick McQuillin’s sensitive performance makes for a great production.

His stream-of conscious style monologue is punctuated with a slide show on a projector, beaming the off-stage cast of Rob’s life onto a screen behind him as he mentions them. This seemed to be a requirement of the script but PlayOn Theatre Company used it to their advantage, particularly when aiding Nick McQuillin’s well-mastered comic timing. The images gave the audience at times an unsettling reference point most notably when Rob analyses and retells through muddled confusion how he apparently seduces Stacy’s flatmate Shona. The description is sexually graphic and introduces a moral grey area with regards to Rob’s actions, all the while Shona’s face resplendent with staring blue eyes and a slight smile is behind him. Consequently the photos from his life and mind become integral characters, it seems like Nick McQuillin is performing with them.

At times Rob hardly seems responsible for the actions he takes, both with Shona and with his family throughout childhood. As Nick McQuillin assumes a close relationship between his audience and himself, it becomes hard to accuse him of anything other than naivety. This may be a point of contention to some; the subject matter is sensitive and completely down to personal interpretation and any actor would tread a tricky road not trying to enforce too many of their own impressions upon the elusive narrative within the script.

PlayOn Theatre’s interpretation of Rob is well thought through, pulling upon the small nuances of neuroses in Jack Thorne’s enthralling script. The Rob Nick McQuillin performs is not an emotional wreck nor is he a drooling menace, too out of tune to command his own life; he is a subtle and believable character plucked from any two person graduate house in Croydon, softly tragic, wry, funny and undeniably complex; no stereotypes or concrete emotions were relied upon too heavily, creating a colourful and diverse character worthy of the compelling writing behind it. It is stimulating to see a (nearly) romantic male lead played so naturally when so often such a role is  either typically unbelievably in tune with their emotions or a stereotypical incommunicative Neanderthal. Rob is none of these, his reactions and ideas are far more reflective of a 21st Century male, working a job he is over-qualified for, living like a student with his brother.

Performing, directing or producing a one man is by no means an easy road to take, specifically at the Fringe where an audience’s attention, overrun with theatre and comedy already may deviate all too quickly when plonked in front of an hour long monologue. Yet Georgina Owen and Nick Partridge’s direction rises to the challenge with a production that is refreshingly real and perceptive.

Directed by: Georgina Owen and Nick Partridge
Producer: Jess Price

Performed by Nick McQuillin

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