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The Human Connection by Eugene O’Hare – Omnibus Theatre | Review

These two plays attempt to delve into frustrated, tormented minds and do not entirely achieve this. There is good acting and a premise with potential, but this is not enough to make up for unimaginative writing and subject matter we are not ready to think about.

Stephen Kennedy in Larry Devlin Wants To Talk To You About Something That Happened - photo credit Damian Robertson.
Stephen Kennedy in Larry Devlin Wants To Talk To You About Something That Happened – photo credit Damian Robertson.

Larry Devlin Wants to Talk to You About Something That Happened
A man is standing on stage attempting to repent for beating his son, it is a premise and structure with potential, unfortunately, the show does not fulfil this. There is a believable exploration of grief, guilt and how the mind begins and fails to comprehend this. Unfortunately, the focus is not on placed well and rather than exploring self-destructive tendencies, time is spent looking at a man trying to make himself feel better about his actions.

Stephen Kennedy (Larry Devlin) is for the most part convincing, he is tense and feels immense guilt, this comes through well. He is serviced by writing which is ambiguous at the right moments and precise at others. What is lacking is an ability to slow down and let moments hang, and resist the urge to shout when trying to express a strong emotion, there was a decisive lack of justification or buildup to the explosions.

It was short and snappy, and aside from a bizarre ending that certainly caught me off guard, this worked well. As a brief confessional monologue, there was a generally effective insight into a crumbling mind attempting to come to terms with the loss of his son, or at least that was my interpretation.

I spent a lot of this play wondering why this play was written, it was unclear in its intention and left me unaffected. Sometimes there is something intangible that makes or breaks a show, unfortunately, this lacked this.

Josh Williams and Ishia Bennison in Child 786 - photo credit Damian Robertson.
Josh Williams and Ishia Bennison in Child 786 – photo credit Damian Robertson.

Child 786
Making a play about Covid is bold, and a tall task, this doesn’t achieve that but does make a good go of it. The play adopts a decidedly naturalistic style and I think this makes a Covid show even harder. The life offered on stage is nothing more than what we are living every day, and while the great writers present the normal in a ponderous way that makes us reconsider life, this show gives no new perspective and fails to ask questions other than those we already know the answers to.

On the whole, the acting is good, Josh Williams (Lennox) and Ishia Bennison (Hilary) are mother and son, they spend the play arguing about Covid based conspiracy theories. The physical characterisation is good and they are very believable as a mother and son. While the troubled relationship underneath this would have been intriguing this is abjectly ignored and (writer) instead chooses to focus on Covid conspiracy theories. Fundamentally the show does not allow you a way in, imperfect characters make for nuanced storytelling, but when poorly executed this can make for theatre you don’t care about.

While there were moments of comedy, the show lacked a variation in theme and style. Conversations were repeated and lacked a new perspective when they came back around. Overall, these shows lacked a certain Je ne sais quoi – there was nothing wrong with it other than the violent defenestration of Chekhov’s gun, and unimaginative writing. The thing that has bugged me while writing this review is that I cannot put my finger on the why behind this show being made.

Every show has a motivation, reason that the art has been made, and I could not work out what this was, sometimes this is a good thing though.

Review by Tom Carter

Larry Devlin Wants to Talk to You About Something That Happened is a new monologue
Originally intended to premiere as part of the Barbican’s cancelled Ghost Light series. Across two weeks, the piece is shared by two high-profile talents; Stephen Kennedy, who you may know best as a regular voice on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, and Frank Laverty, whose recent credits include Shane Meadow’s The Virtues (Channel 4), Emmerdale (ITV) and The Playboy of the Western World (Old Vic).

Child 786, written in response to lockdown, stars Josh Williams, seen recently in Touching The Void (Duke of York Theatre), One Night in Miami (Donmar Warehouse) and New Views: Is There WiFi in Heaven? (National Theatre), alongside Ishia Bennison, whose recent credits include Romeo and Juliet (RSC) Missing People (National Theatre, Tokyo) and Happy Valley (BBC).

Stephen Kennedy in Larry Devlin Wants To Talk To You About Something That Happened – photo credit Damian Robertson.

 

Listings information:
www.omnibus-clapham.org
Omnibus Theatre, 1 Northside, Clapham Common, London, SW4 0QW

Cast:
Stephen Kennedy: Larry Devlin Wants to Talk to You About Something That Happened
Frank Laverty: Larry Devlin Wants to Talk to You About Something That Happened
Josh Williams: Child 786
Ishia Bennison: Child 786

Creative Team
Writer: Eugene O’Hare
Director: Eugene O’Hare
Producer: Bridget Kalloushi

Author

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