Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The veteran actor Sir Leonard Bisby, (Keith Flood), is backstage in his dressing room, mid play. He is reminiscing about his professional and personal relationship with a handsome young man. His lover, a theatre critic and eventual author, spars with him tenderly, aggressively and passionately as they piece together the jigsaw that their lives, intertwined like an ivy round a tree, have been.
Sir Leonard is alone in his dressing room fussing over drinks, sherry or gin…he can’t make up his mind. His partner “Mac”, (Rick Guard), enters, a young tall handsome man, much younger than the thespian. Mac is flirty, pouts a lot effeminate when it suits him. They begin to recreate the scene of a meeting they had in Paris. The simple setting of two chairs around a small circular table and we are on la Rive Gauche. With the familiarity of a well established couple who finish each others’ sentences and nitpick, disputing each of the recollections of the event, they try to select the correct elements of their first meeting. What they drank, who said what, what they were wearing.
The events are not particularly chronological but all are symbolic. Mac’s appearances depict him as immaculately turned out. In a suit he shows the slight snobbery of a 1930’s Noel Coward, in a t-shirt, the buff narcissistic toned promiscuous stereotype. Sometimes he is half naked, and then the aging actor cannot resist his taunts and pouts. It turns out Mac is married. Sir Leonard remembers the argument they had when all the cards were on the table and Mac insists the marriage will go ahead. There is a sense of desperation and imbalance in this couple. The younger man plays with the elders feelings, using him when it suits. Yet they often acquiesce into moments of mutual admiration that is an easier outcome than telling the other the truth they don’t want to hear.
The actor pushes the critic to achieve. He sees him as a writer, not just a theatre critic. When they disagree one or the other sulks until they manage to reach neutral ground, usually accompanied by alcohol, that frees them from their petulance. This turns out to be the formula for all Sir Leonards memories. He appears envious of Mac and at one point they argue about the result of Macs success. The ugliness of the scene is fuelled by the bitterness in Macs voice as he flaunts his desirability to the Hollywood moguls and reflects Sir Leonards non entity, lack of celebrity and the fact that he has missed the boat. It is this success that changes their relationship. Bisby had predicted many times what the loss of Mac would feel like. How he would bear the rejection. The reality is the bitter sweet coda of this piece.
The men perform short snippets of memory. The details are hazy sometimes as the brain tries to get its facts right. The interaction between the two is electric, the petty squabbling uncomfortably realistic. Bisby’s desperation made you want to look away at times, it felt likes eavesdropping on the neighbours. Music accompanied the scene changes which centred around their clothes. Queens, “Good old Fashioned Lover Boy”, when the chase was on and their eyes were bright or Chris Isaac’s anomalous , “I don’t want to fall in love”, when it was too late, they were already in a contract with each other that could only end in pain. The most painful of all Chet Baker offered us solace.
What they were wearing was important, their clothes a mask. Bisby’s memories of Mac are that when dressed he is immaculately turned out, yet he himself was occasionally flustered, out of his league. Mac is the epitome of youth, Leonards lost youth. When the dialogue became to close to the bone, Mac would always change the subject and pull Sir Leonard back to the present. Asking “surely wasn’t it time for you to return to the play on stage, shouldn’t they be calling you” This would jolt the actor out of his maudlin reverie and the stage manager would duly cue him.
Owen Phillips Requiem, is an under the carpet look at relationships. Between lovers, how relationships can grow into uncontrollable monsters. Examining how we cope with failure and success when it’s happening to our friends . The jealousy of Mac’s youth and success that Bisby wraps in insincerity. The look of pity and disgust that Mac has for Bisby, sneering at him for being a small time actor too scared to challenge himself. The absurd removal of Mac’s beard as he prepared for his sham marriage. Finally, if you don’t show what you feel, no-one has to endure the ordeal of addressing it. The mask that we wear to spare people from reality. Poignant