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The Sun the Mountain and Me at Jack Studio Theatre

Part of me still wonders whether one act is sufficient to tell the three stories that form the narrative in The Sun, The Mountain, and Me: I shall let those who don’t have anything better to do express their rage about use of the Oxford comma, and ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ in the show’s title. It’s a very slick production, and quite a lot happens in it: in the end, it’s better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay one’s welcome. Including the story of Icarus (you know, the Ancient Greek myth about the man who ignored his father’s instruction not to fly too close to the sun, such that the beeswax holding his wings in place melted, so they detached, and he fell into the ocean and drowned) brings some familiarity to proceedings.

The Sun the Mountain and Me
The Sun the Mountain and Me

Together with a story about Felice Benuzzi (1910-1988) and the main one about Arthur (Jack Fairey at the performance I attended, understudying for Max Puplett), the show explores the desire people have to escape from their present circumstances. People do not always think rationally in stressful and fraught situations, and while it’s a little clichéd for an artist to be incredibly talented and yet have internal demons to wrestle with, this doesn’t take away from the harrowing nature of Arthur’s personal experiences.

The story begins so positively that it is almost inevitable things will get darker. Arthur’s life is literally and metaphorically in pieces, the former, because he’s moving into a flat with his girlfriend Tara, and the lack of space means some of his belongings will need to be binned (or, one would hope, recycled) or put into storage. The comparisons between himself and Benuzzi aren’t wholly convincing, at least in terms of living conditions: having to move house isn’t quite the same as being interred as a prisoner of war. But the two have, as it were, mountains to climb.

Fairey tackles his own material deftly, and it is no mean feat to establish three distinct environments, each with their own set of characters, with only one visibly obvious on stage. Perhaps some video technology might have helped give equal visibility to the ‘the sun’ and ‘the mountain’ stories – nonetheless, a reliance on the art of storytelling pays off in a production that only occasionally overdoes it when it comes to describing what is already being dramatised.

Then there’s Arthur’s brother, Ethan, who – without giving too much away – won’t let Arthur destroy himself. This could have been another angry show about the various gaps in mental wellbeing provision thanks to a useless Government. Instead, it’s a reflective and intricately complex piece of theatre that doesn’t place the blame for Arthur’s struggle on anyone in particular, but focuses instead on how he got into such a terrible state, and just as importantly, how he got out of it. There’s plenty of food for thought in this subtle and quirky production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Creative Team:
Written and directed by Jack Fairey
Associate Director: Laura Hannawin
Set and Lighting Designer: Joe Malyan
Composer: George Jennings
Stage Manager: Imogen Brown
Produced by Bedivere Arts
Cast: Jack Fairey as Arthur

Jack Studio Theatrewww.brockleyjack.co.uk

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