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Brighton Fringe 2015

The Common Land

Joel Samuels - Fine Mess Theatre

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: The Warren: Theatre Box St Peter’s Church North Brighton BN1 4GU


Low Down

Living in the Fens, Tom, the son of a farmer does some extraordinary things and becomes violent. Why does this happen? The play is an insight into the mind of this person.


This is a brilliant, haunting show for a number of reasons. First of all for the amazing performance of Joel Samuels playing Tom, the son of a farmworker in the Fens. He comes from an unhappy family background living in the Fens which, as he explains spans the counties of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The descriptions of the Fens are bleak. The set is bleak with no furniture and just a bleak, black background and Tom’s life is bleak. He is unloved and bullied by his drunkard father who has never been able to hold on to a job so that the family is constantly moving around leading to no stability and loneliness for Tom. He has been bullied all his life by the other young people he knows at school because he is a farmer’s son and especially by one boy with whom he once fought but was then blamed for causing trouble. The only bright light in his life is his love of English & despite been considered a trouble maker by teachers they realise that he is clever. Into his life comes a young girl, Leah, who also has a love of writing. Even when he moves away from where she lives on one of his many moves, they keep in touch by writing stories to each other. Hers are rather gruesome and full of violence. Eventually his parents find one of the stories and accuse him of writing them. His mother weeps asking what has she done to make him like this. He strongly denies that he has written them but his parents point out that the stories have been written in his writing. Is Leah real or is she a figment of his imagination? Tom describes her as wearing the same trousers as himself. Is she his inner demon? She pushes him to get revenge on his adversary Scarface but is it a real person driving him on or is she a creation of his disturbed brain? This is up to us the audience to decide. He is a troubled soul and at the end of the play Leah doesn’t write to him anymore. Has he managed to reject the demon in his psyche and will he be able to lead a happier life or has the real Leah rejected him? The performance of Joel Samuels is astonishing. I do not think I have ever heard an actor speak so quickly but with such great clarity. From the opening words his speech is delivered at machine gun pace. Despite the extremely energetic speech delivery he has a physical stillness about him and the gestures he makes are made with purpose and intention. Despite the bleak scenario, Joel Samuels finds humour in the script so that the story seems very human rather than being a story of doom and gloom. He relates his story directly to the audience and we feel as if he is addressing each one of us individually. He holds us in the palm of his hand with his intensity and concentration so that we feel great empathy with him. His performance is one which all budding actors should watch to learn about the economy of acting. He has a huge amount of text and the whole story is firmly implanted in his head as there is not one moment that I think it is an actor performing. The character is so vivid and real. There is quite a bit of noise from outside the theatre which must be distracting for the actor but he gives no sign of it. In the programme it says that some characters depicted are based on real people who, as the play is written by Joel Samuels, must have been known to him. This will be one of the best performances of the Brighton Fringe 2015. The direction by Anthony Lau is superb with no over acting allowed even though the story is quite dramatic. The lighting effects are economical but hugely effective. In one of the darker parts of the play the overhead lights made him look almost devilish as his inner spirits torment him. The lovely, haunting music by ‘The Melodic’ sets the tone for the play.


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