FringeReview UK 2022
Directed by Anthony Shrubsall. Actors: Natalia Campbell, Chris Barritt, David Mildon. Stage, lighting and props provided by Jermyn Street Theatre supervised by Penny Horner. More JST Rehearsed Readings on enquiry.
A middle-aged man – Rusty Weston – sits as a woman arrives and berates him: ‘Hello Rusty. Thought I’d left you for a bit, did you?’ When David arrives addressing him formally the woman urges Rusty Weston to ‘act normal’. Which might mean not recognising she’s there, since Dr David Gordon certainly doesn’t.
Gail Louw’s Storming! though (a working title that may change) is based on truth. A real Rusty Weston beat Trump to it and stormed the Capitol on July 24th 1998, single-handed mind you, resulting in fatalities: two policemen. And in 2000 a Dr David Daniel did indeed assess whether he should be made to take meds involuntarily which could result in him being fit to stand trial.
Weston’s life literally hangs on that. Fit, he’ll fry; unfit, he’ll languish incarcerated for life. Some choice.
Weston claims he’s a clone. Dolly the Sheep’s not long been cloned, but there’s unethical noises off from China through places closer to home. So clearly this is his illness talking. Not the woman though. She’s full of insults. ‘Look at him. He’s young and gorgeous. It’s a shame you’re so, ugly!’ But then Weston turns on the doctor. ‘I know who you are… I know what you are… we’re the same’ and bit by bit he unsettles David.
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you make a wrong judgement call. Except killing policemen.
When the woman returns a year later David immediately recognises her: Lucy, now a Treating Psychiatrist. She’s appalled but tries not to show it. He’s aged ten years in just one. They have previous, and now married to a fry ‘em Senator Bob Willis, she takes the establishment view that most people are so friable.
Why did he break things off? Which made her rush to Alaska for career research, just so as to avoid him? And marry a hard-liner, as well as recommend a hard-line psychiatrist to decide on Weston, in Chris Barritt’s terraced watchfully sly reading of a man who knows he holds cards.
As Weston manipulates the former lovers whose feelings for each other are still so intense, Lucy’s half-recognition about ‘what’ David might be emerges.
Lucy never quite gets anti-Semitism either. David just reports it. ‘Anti-Semitic sentiments creeping in. You Jews, type of thing.’ ‘You Jews?’ she asks. ‘But you are Jewish…. Sorry, I don’t, was it more than that?’ Weston’s anti-Semitism is obvious, goes with the mindset. But Lucy never grew up with many Jews she adds.
And Lucy’s baffled as to how this insulting schizo-affective Weston might hold the truth she never recognizes. One that shocks her into an appalling action.
Natalia Campbell’s svelte, judgemental Lucy is armoured against more than Weston, despite flinched moments of tenderness towards David Mildon’s urbane, liberal, seemingly resigned David; a man both painfully attracted yet rejecting. And Lucy, at war with the self she’s chosen faux de mieux, and being pulled back to a man crumbling before her, finally lashes out into a double-betraying monologue at the end.
To Mildon’s anguished yet quiet authority Campbell edges up to the pain of her rejection and even more appalled, why David had to reject her. There’s much Lucy can never get. ‘A Rabbi, why a Rabbi, what’s he got to do with it?’ she asks aghast at a new revelation. Weston gloats.
There’s suggestions made about the real identity of that Figure at the beginning, played too by Campbell, that tighten this already nearly off-the-page performance and play into one of Louw’s edgy three-way fights. In its sinewy reveals, ambushes and volte-faces it recalls her masterly The Ice-Cream Boys, themed around Jacob Zuma and played here to acclaim in September 2019.
Though a rehearsed reading, this is a superb play in embryo, keenly directed by Anthony Shrubsall. It bears relation – but only that – to another play Louw’s had performed and published (it’s in Volume Three of her Oberon Collected Plays): A Life Twice Given. Storming! though stands alone, a wholly original twist to a growing alarm-bell of ethics.