This Man Right Here would have benefited from hearing an aside or two – or ten, given we are supplied with too many to count from Adam (James Groom) – from the female characters, Amy (Jessica Preston) and Roman (Emma Naomi). It’s his side of the story that the play chooses to focus on, which leaves the others comparatively lacking in character development. Amy in particular is portrayed, perhaps unintentionally, as obstinate and generally dislikeable. The sheer contrast between her and Adam therefore comes across as too artificial to be wholly credible.
The play’s ending was slightly bizarre, with no definitive reason for Amy continuing in a relationship with Adam when she has so often expressed misgivings about his conduct and apparent lack of tact. She later claimed to “know” about him and Roman (little is left to the imagination in a quickie scene), further compounding the sense of astonishment by the end of the show that she hadn’t walked out, especially as she threatened to do so at one stage. There is such a thing as ‘open relationships’ for those who are comfortable with that, of course; but the show opens with a row, with Amy disgruntled at Adam even merely exchanging pleasantries with another woman they happened to meet at some night out or other.
The show succeeds in eliciting sympathy for Adam, and the holes in the plot line ultimately serve to demonstrate that no human is perfect in every way. There are secrets that Amy appears to be hiding too, not quite realising that when her accusing forefinger is pointed at her fiancé there are three other fingers of her own pointing straight back at her. Adam’s sense of humour varies between agreeable and awkward, but the play’s narrative is never dull, even when Adam is sat at a laptop working on a spreadsheet.
The scene changes are speedy, helped by a script that quickly sets each scene up with subtlety. We are never kept waiting for the action to resume. Emma Naomi’s Roman is a breath of fresh air in what would otherwise have been a stifling production indeed – there’s something in her relatively devil-may-care approach that in almost any other play may conjure up a feeling of apprehension. Here, she’s the one character that isn’t fussed about trivial matters and is, at least on the face of it, open-minded.
But haven’t we seen this sort of thing happen before? A person in a spiritless relationship gets passionate with someone else. The difference here is that there’s a systematic reasoning going on to justify the human desire to satisfy human needs, and it very, very nearly convinces. The play ended rather too abruptly for my liking, depriving the audience of any sort of epilogue. It is not necessary for a play to neatly tie up every single point: this production does, however, leave too many issues unresolved. I often praise shows that leave the audience wanting more. It is rare, however, for me to suggest a show is crying out for further development in the form of a second act. I do so with regards to this play. This Man Right Here is a determined attempt at exploring what it means to be a twenty-first century man. A bold and penetrating (pun acknowledged but unintended) production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Where It Sank presents
THIS MAN RIGHT HERE
Written by Rick Lyons
Directed by Linda Miller
• This Man Right Here is a new play which takes an unflinching look at the modern male
• It’s on at the Hen and Chickens during the Camden Fringe, August 22, 23, 24, 25.
If there’s a crisis of masculinity, then Adam is its poster-boy. Like other men he struggles with depression, a sense of emasculation and a porn habit, but unlike most blokes, he’s completely honest about these things. So we hear his justifications for x-rated internet use, his tactics for getting antidepressants from his GP and exactly what it is about fiancée Amy that really winds him up. It’s his crush on Amy’s little sister Roman though that really gives him something worth confessing. The younger woman piques his interest when he discovers her ‘sex blog’ and, as he’s drawn toward her, Adam must bring his A-game of avoidance, stalling and deception to stop Amy finding out the kind of person he really is.
This Man Right Here is a provocative play which asks whether modern men deserve our sympathy, our condemnation, or both.
Hen & Chickens Theatre
109 St Paul’s Road
London N1 2NA