The fringe is a great place in which to try out theatrical ideas that the West End wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge pole. For example, a one person, two act play – performed by two people – that uses the same script for each of its two halves is something that is brilliantly designed for a fringe theatre and to see a good example of this style, head out to Theatre 503 to see Grey Man by Lulu Raczka.
The first half of the play sees Maya (The Elder) – played by Kristin Hutchinson recounting scary stories that she used to hear her sister tell her friends. Chief among the stories were those that involved The Grey Man and The Woman who created him. The sister is very good at telling stories and although for some reason she has moved out of the room she shared with Maya, that doesn’t matter as Maya listens to the tales through the thin walls. It is obvious that Maya (The Elder) has some issues, probably on the OCD spectrum, which are demonstrated by her movement of the electric heaters around her.
The second act sees Maya (The Younger) – played by Jasmine Blackborow – telling the same tale but with all the exuberance and vitality that the young bring with them when talking to others. Maya (The Younger) seems full of energy and hope for the future, in stark contrast to Maya (The Elder) who had an almost resigned air about her as she told her tales
So, what to say about the Grey Man? Well the concept, two actresses telling the same story, is – as they say – just daft enough to work. In fact, I was taken by surprise at how different the two acts were from each other – though they both had one major thing in common, as they reinforced my unreasonable fear of clowns (so thanks for that everyone). Despite what both ladies claimed, they were extremely good at telling the various scary stories that ran through the overall narrative. Both actresses were very good in their delivery, though I did think that Kristin looked a lot younger than fifty which threw me a bit at first. Jasmine in particular seemed perfect in her role. There was something very engaging about her personality which came across to the audience extremely well.
Lulu’s writing was really good and it was so interesting to see how the same words could deliver two distinct stories – possibly more as there is always room for an audience member to bring their own interpretation to the events unfolding in front of them and if I’m honest, I didn’t necessarily see things in exactly the same way as they had been described by others but I can understand where the story was going and how it could be thought of a demonstrating this or that facet of the girl’s lives. Direction by Robyn Winfield-Smith was pretty spot on and I loved the moment when Jasmine’s Maya (The Younger) sat in the audience to demonstrate a particularly scary story. I also liked the sound design from Daffyd Gouch which was quite in subtle in helping to build tension as, especially with some of the Grey Man stories.
Overall, even though murderous clowns turned up in my dreams last night and I will never trust anyone I talk to in a car park again, I quite liked The Grey Man. It is an intriguing piece that demonstrates some great writing and delivery and left me thinking about my own nighttime fears and how I would articulate and deal with them at my time of life now, compared to what I might have done 25 years ago.
Review by Terry Eastham
Theatre503 and REND Productions present…
By Lulu Raczka
“See, really, it was my sister who could tell stories…”
Grey Man is a one-woman show – played by two women. Same words – different story.
Haunted by her past, Maya is a 50-year-old woman compulsively returning to the site of a terrible family tragedy to re-tell the stories of her childhood…
Filled with possibility for her future, Maya is a 25-year-old woman returning to her family home to help her sister recover from a debilitating mental illness…
A bold theatrical experiment, Grey Man is a thrilling exploration of how our perspective can completely reshape the world around us. Two women, one half the age of the other, take wildly different paths in response to precisely the same events in this powerful short play about the stories we tell to get through life…
Written by Lulu Raczka, whose recent Clytemnestra formed part of the Gate’s critically acclaimed The Iphigenia Quartet.
50 -year-old Maya: Kristin Hutchinson
25- year-old Maya: Jasmine Blackborow
Writer: Lulu Raczka
Director & Co-Designer: Robyn Winfield-Smith
Co-Designer: Natalie Parsons
Lighting Designer: Jamie Platt
Sound Designer: Daffyd Gough
Co-Producers: Robyn Keynes, Sam Read
Stage Manager: Amy McLean
20 – 25 June, 7.45pm