Camden Fringe 2011
A Hero’s Journey follows the life of creative writing teacher Matthew Rain who finds himself at the centre of his own fantasy for success. His yearning for recognition stems from an underlying envy of his best friend Ferdinand, a successful writer whose natural charm has secured him a literary agent, played by Sally Preston. In true fantasy story style Matthew has a greater obstacle to overcome. In this case it is ‘the Doctor’. A parody of the Peter Davison interpretation of Dr Who represents Matthew’s own self-loathing.
This is a story of the nerdy man, trapped in a fantasy comic book world, who fights the plight of his own kind to succeed in what a nerd is good at doing – being a clever. It was Plato who said that true wisdom comes from realising how little we know about life, ourselves and the world around us. A Hero’s Journey showed this but our Hero needs some work in becoming the caped crusader that litters the comic book genre.
Matthew Rain, played by Richard Jackson, comes across as a Brian Cox type character. Here was a clear vision of the troubled genius struggling for his art, or perhaps that should be his science. This character was a significant driver in the piece and the writing seemed to suggest that the stereotypical Nerd was the new Hero. The audience certainly enjoyed the geeky innuendos and references which provided some entertaining moments and, for this reviewer, a few belly laughs.
The eccentric student Rosie, played by Ellen Gallagher, provided a refreshing shift with her surreal story about a ‘pimp fish’ and her quirky poem added a comically physical presence. Cliff Chapman’s posh portrayal of the Doctor gave an extra dimension and insight into the mind of Matthew, though overall the character needed to be a much stronger presence as in this performance he seemed to flirt with his own ego and his own moral conscience.
The piece shows a surreal and dark look at the life of a Nerd, who lacks the self-esteem to truly shine like the traditional hunks who flaunt their confidence and success like a wad of bank notes. At another level the show invites the audience to acknowledge and perhaps embrace their own inner nerd. Certainly there were points in this show when I was reminded I was once an avid reader of comic books and fantasy stories involving tragedy, adventure and… err…heroes.
The concept of drawing together childlike comic fantasies with the nerdiness associated with Dr Who anoraks was an interesting one but overall it was not so much a play, but a series of sketches. There were some colourful characters in odd situations but the humour and wit could have been stronger. Some of the film and character references required detailed knowledge of the genre to fully appreciate. In places the comedy moments became a little too predictable. It’s always wise to let the audience discover the humour for themselves, rather than having it signposted.