London Dockland’s The Space has been doing a sterling job with a continuous inventive mix of live, livestreamed and on demand short run pieces mostly from emerging writers. There never seems to be a shortage of something new to experience making keeping up with it all a big ask; however, that’s infinitely preferable to there being little choice. In order to do some online catching up, I went for a double bill of productions which are currently or will shortly be available.
The first is a collection of short monologues called Tartarus And Other Stories by Simon Perrott which are being shown on demand. Shortly before the live run one of the three intended pieces had to be pulled leaving an unfortunate gap as it was clear from the title (I Live On Uranus) that it would have shared the theme of space which features prominently in the other two. What is now reduced to a double bill begins with Spaced Cowboy and that last “d” in the first word is crucial as it can be the only explanation for what amounted to a rather uncoordinated piece of astronomical whimsy mashed up out of Lewis Carroll and Douglas Adams by way of Arthur C. Clarke and Hunter S. Thompson. Max Easton plays “the cowboy” who ultimately admits he isn’t one but has an interesting set of voices to embody the other characters (human and animal) that he encounters. There seems to be an ecological message to it all, but it is all rather elusively dreamlike – perhaps as the character ends the piece by lying down maybe that’s exactly what it is.
Tartarus, the title of the second piece, makes reference to the place of everlasting suffering of Ancient Greek myths. The protagonist, like Mephistopheles in Dr Faustus, finds that his current existence “is hell, nor am I out of it”. The true love of his life has died and left him tortured, alone and in endless contemplation of black holes and quasars. Even as he tries to recall happier times – a day trip to London, their first holiday on the Amalfi coast – this only increases his apparent suffering. Indeed, I began to wonder whether Will (the name is perhaps ironic as he seems to lack that facility to move on with his own life) actually takes some vicarious pleasure in describing his misery. Oliver Longstaff handles the various elements well as he uses the audience for a group confessional and the interwoven back stories at least ensure that the mood is not sombre for the entire 40 minutes. As the two pieces are presented here, the differing tones and lengths makes the experience rather uneven; perhaps that third unperformed monologue means that some vital connective tissue has gone missing, but the pieces are not without promise.
I saw Enter Mr Citrus Man from Alien Jefferson as a livestream; it will become an on demand stream once the lives shows have finished. I mentioned whimsy above and this is certainly a key feature of this disarming show which takes some pot-shots at celebrity popularity and the role of lifestyle gurus. Adult couple Pat and Pete have decided to live in their bathroom and as far as possible keep the world at arm’s length, apart from occasional forays to the corner shop. As well as staying clean, they can play games, indulge in fantasies, look after their plants and not bother their rather empty heads about anybody/thing else. I started to wonder how they were managing economically, but that probably says more about the prosaic mood I was in rather than the production itself . Anyway, a self-important lifestyle coach they dub Mr Citrus Man (nobody should smell that strongly of citrus) lures Pat away by telling her that she is “the chosen one” and, in echoes of Little Voice shoves his protégé on stage to entertain with her improvised songs. After that the piece continues to entertain but becomes rather muddled. There is, for instance, a lively bit of puppetry but it didn’t really seem to gel with the rest of the play. Ultimately, Pat comes to understand the error of her ways and returns to her much simpler and undemanding lifestyle.
The whole thing needs a firmer hand on the tiller than writer/director Mia Juhl appears to be able to give it if it is not to spiral into self-indulgence. And I’d start with the central relationship as there is a definite distinction between being childlike and childish; the first is endearing, the second just plain annoying. I could be completely wrong, but the play seems to be a spin on the Adam and Eve story with Mr Citrus Man – he’s actually called Gabriel!!! – playing the role of the serpent luring his victim away from the bliss of Paradise. I’m not sure what that makes Mike, who only deals with mics, but that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Tartarus And Other Stories is currently available on demand from The Space website – click here
Enter Mr Citrus Man was a one off live stream but will be available on demand soon – to check, click here
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