Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: 'Mister Mushroom' at the Old Red Lion, 31st October 2017

Mister Mushroom reviewed by David James
Rating: 2 Stars

Apocalypse is in vogue at the moment. From Mad Max: Fury Road to The Walking Dead to Fallout 4, there's a huge audience out there who want to immerse themselves in a ruined world in which desperate survivors struggle to carve out a life after society has collapsed. What does this preoccupation say about the general state of mind? We're buffeted by reports on climate change too scary to process, told with authority that our economy is a wobbly mess and (if you hoover up the garbage that the right wing press put out) you might believe we're under siege from barbarous dark-skinned men from the south.

All of that informs The Fallen Institute's Mister Mushroom. Once upon a time, Little Spewling was the epitome of a picturesque English village, speckled with pubs, community halls, schools and farmlands. That all changed when the nearby nuclear power plant melted down, transforming Little Spewling into toxic, radioactive anarchy. 

It seems that there's only one sane man in this anarchy. Holed up in a bunker and subsisting on canned food, he struggles to maintain decorum and civility in a world gone mad. But as the radiation seeps into his home, can he complete his mission of finding 'Bunny' or will he succumb to the madness that's seized the town?

Written by Reece Connolly and performed by Christopher Keegan (also directing), Mister Mushroom is a scuzzy, claustrophobic monologue that revels in making the audience uncomfortable. As it opens on a rather gory piece of self-surgery, and includes to a genuinely wince-inducing dental mishap, I'd say it achieves that particular goal. These shivery moments mean we never get too comfortable in our hero's company, our suspicions about him gradually building as the monologue develops.

Keegan fits the role beautifully: looking creepily ogrish as he squats in his cave picking over the bones of the past and silently hearing the chaos rumbling away above his head. He also builds up a fine head of mania, practically frothing at the mouth in later scenes as his true feelings are revealed. 

Unfortunately, much of the potential impact of the piece is torpedoed by the fact that Keegan hasn't memorised his lines. Part of the conceit of the piece is that we're reading this man's manifesto/autobiography, so the character having typed documents around him is appropriate. But the knock-on effects of him constantly referring to the script are numerous. Most obviously, Keegan pretty much has to remain seated at a desk, which severely limits his physical performance. It also makes for occasionally stilted delivery and the constant gazes down at the papers mid-sentence break the character's engagement with the audience.

I'm sure there's a good reason why Keegan doesn't know this by heart - perhaps he stepped in to play the character at late notice or something, but whatever the excuse it genuinely harms the show's flow and overall effectiveness. Maybe this is why a late plunge into complete mad (and a stab at political relevance) isn't half as engaging as it probably should be. 

Mister Mushroom is a nice idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Perhaps if it was staged and performed with a little more panache it could hit the heights it wants to but right now it feels incomplete.

Mister Mushroom is at the Old Red Lion as part of the London Horror Festival until November 2nd. Tickets here.

Tags: , , , , ,

0 Responses to “Review: 'Mister Mushroom' at the Old Red Lion, 31st October 2017”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights