Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The book The Man Who Was Thursday, by J. K. Chesterton was a satire written in 1908 about a group of anarchists, each one named after days of the week as Gabriel Syme is recruited as the new Thursday. This company have set the action in a War on Terror America. It is an amusing mess that is saved by some good comic performances and set pieces.
The action begins at JFK International Airport in New York where Syme, a Terrorism expert is trying to get through the metal detector with the buzzer constantly going off. He is subsequently recruited by a mysterious figure he only hears the voice of to infiltrate a dangerous terrorist group of seven who name themselves after days of the week. Recently Thursday has been killed and he is to to pose as the new Thursday to foil their plot. So ensues a comic series of events.
This is a piece of work that needs more development. The first scene is the best one and from there it ebbs and flows, showing real promise one moment, tedium and amateurishness the next. It looks like this young company, The Jam Collective, have put plenty of thought into the adaptation but not spent enough time on the direction and cohesion of the piece. One obvious problem is the lack of theatrical space that is created in the scenes. The first is best because it is very clear and a scene we are all familiar with. They use few props and no set, relying entirely on some very good sound effects that work in time with the action. Without set we are left only with the actual space: The Nightclub in the Gilded Balloon, and if they aren’t doing their job well enough we lose our ability to imagine where it is supposed to be – New York.
That said there are some lovely moments. The cinema, using lighting to great effect; the tram, the taxi crash; all well executed comic set pieces. Some of the performances are also very good: Micah Stock as the nervous ‘Thursday’ puts in an excellent characterization, Adam Farabee who plays an actor playing an old man is very funny, and Andrea Syglowski has range and a strong stage presence.
But the ending is particularly poor, with no one seeming to know what they’re doing. And the decision to break the fourth wall is baffling.
The ideas and the talent are there. This group use ‘jamming sessions’ to create theatre. Great, but perhaps some stronger direction and narrative structure would go a long away in improving this.