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The Boy on the Bridge at the Rose Theatre

Wednesday, 9 November, 2011

Gimme Shelter

London – The Rose Theatre – 11-29 October 2011

There is a smell of incense as the scene is taken in.  A man in cream trousers and shirt is sitting on a rug on the floor.  He is in a yoga position with his legs crossed and eyes closed.  Scattered around him are cups, tea, flip flops, a notepad with a pen on top of it, a flask with steam coming out of the top and two sleeping bags hanging over the rail at the back.  The sound of his breathing adds to the background noise of birds singing and cars going by.

The man reads something from his book then sits contemplating something.  A woman in a suit rushes in and takes a breath.  They are on a bridge.  A young man rushes in after her then stops.  He looks at the man on the floor.  “What’s he doing here?” he asks her.  “He’s living here” she replies.  “But it’s a bridge!” he responds hilariously and incredulously.  The contemplative man is a young man called Jonjo, the woman is his psychologist Linda and the perplexed young man is called Ziggy.  He is Linda’s client also.  This is the start of a great relationship between the three and the start to a great play and performance by all involved.

Steve Clarke plays Jonjo.  Jonjo is a wise and mature young man.  He cares for all around him, cares about the world and likes to read.  He cannot hide in his books though and when he has to face reality, his past comes out and affects his present.  Steve Clarke shows Jonjo’s strength and also his vulnerability well.  He shows the hurt and pain inside and the nonchalant façade that he tries to maintain.  Steve Clarke cleverly portrays a fatherly Jonjo with a caring instinct against the instinct to flee and close himself off from all those around him.

Charlie Cussons plays Ziggy.  Charlie Cusson’s Ziggy is something to behold.  It is stunning how he has captured Ziggy and all his mannerisms, behaviours and manner of speaking.  He has all the best lines.  It would be great to know how Charlie Cussons researched and developed his character.  Ziggy is a young man with an innocent mind.  He is affectionate to others and needs to be loved back.  You want to protect him and be friends with him.  He is genuine and fun.  Charlie Cussons performed an impressive tormented rant at Jonjo.  He also portrays Ziggy learning to dance in an amusing way.  There is a fascinating moment where Charlie Cussons touches his four fingers to his lips twice after being kissed in such a way that captures the essence of Ziggy.

Bobby Hirston plays Malc.  He is the older and more mature friend in many ways.  He is also vulnerable and similar to the other two in other ways.  He is the cool one of the group. He feels he does not need anything but he is in as much need of love as anyone.  He comes on wearing a grey hat, jeans, brown boots, blue sports top and carrying a large rucksack.  He relieves himself, marking his territory on the bridge and also his territory as a friend to Jonjo.  Bobby Hirston plays Malc with ease.  He is a pleasure to watch.  His playful and cheeky manner makes Malc easier to like and harder to dislike when he shows a side to him, which is not so pleasant.  You understand why he behaves the way he does.  You want to help him.

Frankie Meredith plays Kathy.  She is a manipulative and cruel character.  She uses people to get what she wants and discards them when she feels they have no further value to her.  She also has vulnerabilities and misplaced views of who she is and what people see her as.  She uses her physical attributes to her advantage but this actually harms her more.  She is not getting the true affection she desires.  She tries to play the three friends.  She is really playing herself.  Frankie Meredith plays Kathy capably.

Anna Tarsh plays Anna.  She is trying to help these young men.  She is trying to help herself.  Something is going to give at some point and it does.  She seems to blur the doctor-patient relationship at times and has an affection for Jonjo that she should not have.  She views Jonjo as a ‘stray animal’.  She has a motherly instinct in some ways.  She appears to be drawn to Jonjo as he has all the qualities she would like in a partner.  It is hard to tell her true intention.  Anna Tarsh plays Anna well.  She is confused, stressed and dreamy.  She would be a good study for a psychologist.  She switches personalities and emotions quite frequently.  It is interesting to see.

Dimitry Devdariani has directed a worthy piece of work.  The characters work well and interact well.  They have their own journey and voice.  The play is poignant and would appeal to many.  It makes people think about people on a deeper level than what you see.  It is a good thing to encourage.  There is one awful point however, where Jonjo makes a nazi sign, which is misplaced, unnecessary and nearly ruins the whole play.  Nearly.

Stu-Art James has designed and managed the set and stage well.  It all looked believable, worked and flowed well.  It was easy to imagine the characters up on a bridge somewhere in the countryside, with the wind blowing across the bridge and them looking out to the city around them.

Gareth Pilkington has written a clever play.  The relationships and circumstances are interesting and keep the attention.  Ziggy has the best lines and it is intriguing to see how he will react to each situation and what he will say.  The story and characters progress well and grow together.  The ending is something to wait for too.

The play is about friendship.  The three friends all have a bravado that is unique to them and they are all hiding vulnerability and a damaged past.  They share a lot therefore understand a lot and each other well.  Child abuse is discussed and abuse of a woman by her husband.  The characters have hard lives and they try to make the best of them and get through their situation to the other side together.  They are all hurting.  They all need each other.  There is a continual progression followed by regression.  They open themselves up to love but retract into themselves once It is quite beautiful and harrowing at the same time.

The stage goes dark between each scene.  Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ plays at one point.  Beautiful piano music plays between two of the scenes.  It creates a perfect atmosphere for the theme of the story.  It gets quite emotional with this piano music playing at opportune moments.

It is a play to see, appreciate and reflect on.  We need to protect the young and protect each other.  See it for the themes in the play, for the compelling performances of the cast and for the outstanding Charlie Cussons as Ziggy.

Cast Credits:  Steve Clarke – Jonjo.  Charlie Cussons – Ziggy.  Bobby Hirston – Malc.  Frankie Meredith – Kathy.  Anna Tarsh – Linda.

Company Credits:  Director – Dimitry Devdariani.  Writer – Gareth Pilkington.  Set Design and Management – Stu-Art James.  Graphic Design – Paul Vine.

© Chantal Pierre-Packer 2011

Reviewed Thursday 20 October 2011 / The Rose Theatre

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