So, there I was yesterday pedantically complaining about a tendency to call something livestreamed when it is in point of fact a recording of a livestream. That’s not a charge which can be levelled at The Final Approach written and performed by Thom Jordan. Indeed, he goes out of his way at the start of the piece to stipulate that what we will be watching will be “in the past” as he’s committing the performance to video. Alternatively, Jordan will be performing the piece on specific dates on specific times as part of Living Record at the Brighton Fringe festival so if a live experience is sought this can certainly be catered for.
Actually, good luck to Jordan when he does perform live. Not only does he play multiple roles and narrates in between, he operates his own sound and lighting, operates some sort of voice modulator/manipulator and manually changes backgrounds by using an overhead projector. A recent tweet contains some sobering figures. If nothing else you have to admire his dexterity at keeping all the plates spinning and the occasional fluffed line does little to detract from the effect of a whirlwind of storytelling and characterisation. At least he doesn’t try and change costume on top of everything else – indeed this seems to bear little relation to the time setting or the “plot”.
It’s the story of a school student trying to emulate the world record for staying awake set in 1964 (11 days if you are interested), except that this is barely mentioned. However, it does account for the rather hazy nature of the experience the protagonist has as he falls further and further into a strange world where he becomes a Raymond Chandleresque figure trying to track down a student cheating circle which exists at the school – or would that be the result of the “medications” located in his locker? As well as the hard boiled gumshoe narrator, Sam Marlowe, who shares his surname with Chandler’s most well-known creation, Jordan plays other students, the teachers (including a pair of Australian zygotic twins), the sinister canteen supervisor and, at one stage a giant fatberg. Actually, I should have spoiler alerted that last item but if you’re following all this it probably won’t have surprised you anyway.
Jordan skilfully manipulates his own voice electronically (a Roland VT-3 if you like the tecchie stuff) to create a laconic narrator in traditional mould and all the other characters. While it’s a bit odd at first I found myself enjoying the conceit and thinking well it’s one way to solve a potential budgeting problem when faced with hiring a huge cast and it definitely gives the piece an enjoyable USP. The video itself is shot in appropriately moody style using monochrome photography and deep shadows to emphasise the film noir antecedents. To complete the picture much of the soundtrack features jazz trumpet noodlings which also recall the era of Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd and Barbara Stanwyck.
While it relies heavily on a particular set of tropes for its narrative The Final Approach is quite a genre buster. If a bit overlong at 70 minutes, its playful nature and impressive technical prowess make it memorable, and it has proved one of the highlights of the Brighton Fringe online so far. It’s a bit of a magpie of a show using titbits of comedy and drama but never quite coming to rest on either which is all part of its charm. If you want something that is very different and sits outside the mainstream then look no further, especially as you can choose a recorded livestream or a livestreamed livestream as the mood takes you; it therefore satisfies my personal sense of the theatrical trades’ description act. Enjoy!
The Final Approach is currently available as part of The Living Record at the Brighton Fringe Festival – click here
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