Brighton Year-Round 2021
Written and performed by Richard Crane, directed and designed by Faynia Williams. Assistant Director Jacquie Roffe, Technical stage Manager John Buss, Costume Ruth Goodall, Image Design/Logo Leo Crane figuration, Mr Crane’s glasses Brompton’s Opticians, Brighton. Song: ‘Every Breath You Take’/Sting – counter-tenor Iestyn Davies. Later tours TBA.
You wonder what that great stalker anthem, Sting’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ – sung here in languid, stratospheric spirit by counter-tenor Iestyn Davies – is doing. Mozzzi proves it’s apt.
Mozzzi starts like that D. H. Lawrence poem, except we have a reply. ‘Am I man enough to out-mosquito you?’ ‘Don’t swat me!’ pleads Richard Crane inhabiting his own Mozzzi in a curious suit with head-light like a fluorescent miner and resembling some curious corner of British humour from the 1950s or earlier.
Crane though can bite. He contradicts himself deliberately, creates verbal pratfalls and the buzz is serious. Though a solo play full of narrative-driven figures there’s wit and ’I don’t mean that’ then ‘yes I do’ establishing a destabilizing yet authoritative presence. And he’s a male, they’re harmless.
Crane’s intimate relation of mosquito facts – the way eyes move from round to hexagonal in their 7-10 day lifespan – build a persona of absurdist sympathy for the male of the species. It’s the female needing blood for her young’s eggs you’ve to look out for. Providing you can tell the difference.
The play’s a shimmering metaphor – warning humanity through the persona of a species that imperils it, and came in 2017, on the cusp of an interesting development.
The play’s a lifecycle. The first of the three sections or Acts (this is a 40-minute piece altogether) treats naturally of adolescence and we’re irradiated with facts and slants on the human condition from a Mozzzi perspective.
The possibilities of sex and procreation are buzzed out. There’s a vocal and physical evenness throughout and it’s prodigious enough. Crane’s wondrous energy can’t start exploding in boyish orgasmics as well, though ideally as contrast that might help. What Crane so consummately does is to physically inhabit Mozzz or Mozzzi, and he’s helped by the design (though not in this case the video projections) of Faynia Williams, who’s also the director, with assistant director Jacquie Roffe, and Ruth Goodall’s costumery giving Crane his wings: a simple mosquito garb based on a diving suit.
Mozzz tells us that since the mating takes place in an airborne hour or so, that’s a vast span of time in a mosquito’s life. It’s these flashes of humour flecked with wonder driving the narrative that allows Crane first to convey information with an engaging reach, when scaled up or down to human terms.
Second, he’s able to engage the sheer density of alien jokes that in a relatively short time keep you impelled on the narrative and not too distracted from it. So his first attempt at a passing female, with his group of pals, is forlorn. He needs amping up. Another day.
Second Act and we’re into youthful maturity, with a variety of escapades with an older female mosquito who tells Mozzz mysteriously he’s a betrayer, something not worked out till the final act. The female then expires so mating but not procreation sorted, then, and there’s a reason. Mozzz adheres to the plan having observed humanity and he’s got a confession.
It’s not just the mosquitoes plaguing Brazil in 2017 with new variants and new diseases: chikungunya, dengue, and Zika (the one causing brain-shrunk babies to be born); it’s their capacity to take on zoonotic and other transmitted diseases, partly through deforestation releasing such strains – ably absorbed and transmitted by the female Mozzzis out there.
But it’s the third act where the font and origin of this is revealed and just who’s responsible. That’s worth catching. In a dramatic reversal of disease and species, of roles reversed and the modes of scientific dislocation, we’re given a stark warning.
And now, being seven days (or 70 years) old Mozzzi wants out, clapped out in Crane’s portrayal, visibly shrinking, flagging down as an old mosquito had once warned him, calling him a betrayer too. Mozzz now does the opposite of what he pleaded for at first. But then we’ve been on a life’s journey with him.
This is a superlatively honed piece, having gone to the Edinburgh Festival in 2018 and here ‘direct from the 2019 Venice Biennale’ via a very different pandemic. Clearly there’s only so much one actor can do with exquisite minimal design and in this place, no access to videos. Visually it’s designed to stun, and closing your eyes sometimes you can imagine it.
It’s also a piece ideally placed to travel like mosquitoes anywhere, and infiltrate schools, academies, universities, conferences and elsewhere with its metaphorical wit lending a hefty message not unworthy of, in its light buzz, Rachel Carson’s 1962 masterpiece, Silent Spring. Then it was DDT. Now it’s personal.