Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: 'Reprehensible Men Part II' at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 16th August 2017

Reprehensible Men Part II reviewed by David James

Rating: 2 Stars

Dan Horrigan's Reprehensible Men Part II consists of five short monologues performed by various actors. As you can probably guess from the title, all are men, and all the characters they perform all fall on the wrong side of the moral compass. 

With an empty stage populated by a solitary chair (a second eventually arriving), director Phil Setren clearly wants to avoid any distractions that might get in the way of the performances and script. This proves a double-edged sword as performances run the gamut from intense to hammy and the writing has a nasty habit of disappearing up its own arse. 

The worst offender is the opening piece. Christopher Preston is lumbered with an absolute dog of a monologue that opts for self-conscious verbosity to defining character or telling a story. It's a real teeth-gritter, bombarding the audience with literary flourishes and half-assed rhetoric that reminded me of Harrison Ford's famous comment to George Lucas on the set of Star Wars: "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!".

Fortunately, it's all uphill from there. Each performer recognises the opportunity to show off their particular skills. Jamie Pigott gives a rangy, wounded performance as a guilt-ridden lover, with his monologue containing a particularly nice observation about concealing the intensity of past loves from your current squeeze. He's followed by Gareth Radcliffe, who does an excellent job of directly interacting with audience members and subsequently cranking up the tension.

But the best of the bunch comes last. Christopher Sherwood is an excellent actor and benefits from having one of the more straightforward stories to tell. He's all lean muscle and frustration, pacing the stage like a caged animal. In a successful dramatic flourish, he invites a member of the audience up on stage to read a crucial part of the piece. This is a gamble, but it paid off last night.

Five back to back monologues over the space of just over an hour proves to be a difficult writing exercise. Over just 10-15 minutes you have to introduce the character, set up, tell and conclude the narrative and, well, be interesting

Reprehensible Men Part II just doesn't achieve that consistently - the choice to sacrifice clarity for style making it difficult to properly get to grips with the characters or their stories. On top of that, despite the characters coming from a wide range of social and educational backgrounds, they all drop ten-dollar words as if they've guzzled a Thesaurus, unnecessarily revealing the author's hand.

If the best of these were expanded, maybe something with a bit of nuance and room for a bit of literary experimentation could arise. As it stands this is a painfully cramped show, the brief time we spend with each character and the unfocused writing preventing any real engagement.

Reprehensible Men Part II is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 19 August. Tickets here.

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