FringeReview Scotland 2017
One actor sits at a table as we come into the small room. We sit across from him, invited to do so before he starts to tell us about what has happened to him, his wife and her father one tragic summer in the South of France. Over the course of ¾ of an hour we are taken through the waves of intimate revelation which seldom surprise but are entirely engaging.
This is a piece of theatre that invites you to concentrate fully on the task right in front of you. For both performer and audience there is no escape as we begin by hearing about the grandfather and his past before we launch into the love that was discovered and then shared between our narrator and his wife. Eclipsed by the birth of their daughter we are then taken slowly to the edge of the precipice and tragedy which was at the Sea Wall of the title and leaves us in no doubt how personal and tragic this has been to all 3 adults.
As a piece of theatre this takes intimacy to the level of highly personal. With no artifice and theatre arts, we are given insight into what happens to people when they lose someone very dear and innocent to them.
Performed by Alan Mackenzie, directed by Eve Nicol and written by Simon Stephens, this has a tremendous pedigree.
The risk being taken by Heroes is that you are allowed to pay what you want at the end of it. As a risk it is hardly new, but the opportunity to take theatre out of buildings and into venues not necessarily associated with theatre gives us a little bit of an insight into why it should be done more often.
The play, first performed at the Bush in London in 2009, has layers which work but do tend to take you from left and right field into the story. I found the text interesting with many layers that were peeled back very well by Mackenzie, however, I found the text to meander into areas that were unresolved – the metaphor of the hole in the stomach was an example of this.
MacKenzie, has nowhere to hide as a performer and it makes us focus on both the performance and the text. An issue for me is that I found it acted rather than given a naturalistic format. I was looking to be engaged more and the style was something that got in the way for me of the narrative. Mackenzie does bring a light touch to the script which, in the main allows the peeling of its onion with some confidence and whilst acted, it is never forced. Mackenzie is able to hold pauses and silences well that underlines the intensity with which his feelings towards the events are carried.
It leaves me thinking and feeling that Nicol’s directorial choices have perhaps given a naturalistic setting to an artifice of performance that may jar a little. The ability to be slightly critical was partly because the idea is so good and the performance was good. I really did like both the experience and Heroes Theatre deserve credit for taking theatre out on this particular road.
At 45 minutes, it is not going to keep you out for too long and as it beds in and travels a little more I have no doubt it shall settle into a very unsettling performance that deserves a bigger audience but would do better with a smaller one!