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Review of Night Voices by Beartuza Theatre Company

Night VoicesThere’s a consistently quirky sense of humour in Night Voices, and while it appealed to me, there are bound to be dissenting voices elsewhere who would dismiss it as unfunny. On the whole, it’s a hoot, though there are occasions when a joke is repeated to the point where it starts to lose its effectiveness.

Tommy (Kieran Parrott) suddenly finds Gaz (Phil Poole) in his hospital room. Gaz is not a member of hospital staff or a visitor; Tommy doesn’t even know the man. But rather implausibly, Tommy tags along with Gaz in an attempt to escape from the said room, and from here, the big bad world is explored.

What’s particularly wonderful about this show is a recognition of its limitations. Unafraid to not take itself too seriously, the script goes to some lengths to draw attention to holes and deficiencies. It’s a bold move, but paradoxically gives the show more credibility. For instance, an absurdly low plank of wood, on which a chair is placed at either end, serves as a bar, except it doesn’t work, as the characters must sit on the floor in order to rest an arm against it.

Tommy’s growing frustration with the increasingly nonsensical happenings in this play is something that’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for, though there does end up being a simple and incredibly plausible reason for it all. I realise, in retrospect, enough hints were given in the opening scene – Han (Vicky Buxton) couldn’t be clearer about what was really going on if she tried. But at the time, I confess I didn’t see the show’s ‘eureka moment’ coming.

One character, a puppet apparently “made out of a Primark bag”, served (at least to me) as a metaphor for almost anyone who is quick to find fault in others but who cannot see their own shortcomings.

Elsewhere, Cass (Laura Chetty) takes on the role of a medium, with the usual careful choice of language that mediums deploy to indicate she has performed a great work. But, as is what I can only presume is usually the case, nothing substantial has happened at all. But what’s the difference between that and political spin-doctoring, or managerial corporate-speak? The real-life applications in this borderline absurdist play are broad.

As a production, it runs very smoothly for a show of this nature, and there’s a definitive fringe factor about it. The scene changes are far from laborious, and there’s even scope for a quip or two as bits of set are being carted off. In the final moments of the play, a schoolboy, Ryan (Patrick McCormack at this performance; the role is shared with Cornelius Gibson for this short run) – hints at showing an understanding of the world around him that outshines that of some of the adult characters. As I might have said if I were a contestant on a certain Sky Television quiz show about a decade ago, “My name is Chris, and I am not smarter than a ten-year- old.”

For such a broad show that goes on a journey that seemingly takes the scenic route to its destination, it feels strangely focused. I think that’s because it’s a personal story, and a very British one at that, with cynicism and sarcasm. Gaz’s ‘clown act’ was the most deadpan and ironically hilarious I’ve ever come across. Best of all is the questioning as to whether the music accompanying a late uplifting scene was really necessary – as someone who regularly finds background arrangements in a play irritating, it’s good to know there are theatre-makers out there who have similar sentiments. A wry and witty play.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Tommy has been admitted to Northgate Health Facility. He’s sick: sick of his job; sick of being asked how he’s doing and also genuinely sick. When a stranger called Gaz stumbles into his room, Tommy is presented with the opportunity to go on a life-changing adventure. The only problem is, Gaz doesn’t seem to know where he’s going.

Join them on a journey to where the mountains grow. There’s a circus, trifle and a guru. There’s also some admin to do but no one likes admin so we’ll try and get through that as quickly as possible.

Mirth, Marvel & Maud – 186 Hoe Street, London, E17 4QH

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