I’ve had a tendency over the years to disagree with the concept of ‘school days are the best days’. During ‘school days’, you can’t do what you really want to do in life and, despite school councils and other forms of ‘pupil participation’, every student really knows that the school isn’t run by them, and frankly, there are lots of good reasons why this should be the norm. But for Terry (Steve Conlin), a sense of powerlessness and being largely, if not totally, ignored was compounded by a home life in which his father concentrated his efforts on effectively forcing a successful career for Terry’s older brother Dan, a gifted musician who had the potential to be a concert pianist.
Had. Past tense. As Terry was describing his girlfriend Mina, their house, his childhood memories – his life story, really – it occurred to me that there might well be a critical incident that will suddenly shake Terry’s world, and thus the direction of the production. That point never came, because the show’s critical incident had already occurred before the time in which the play is set. Terry continues to be upset, never at Dan, who I gathered he rather admired, but at bad parenting: Dan was subjected to so much pressure by the brothers’ father, hours of piano rehearsals every day without fail.
Terry, sadly, felt he may as well not exist, and in a steadily paced story, goes through the many different instances that help to explain why he is still, at 27 years of age, unable to appreciate and enjoy life to its fullest extent. The narrative jumps about too much, however, coming across as a stream of consciousness rather than a carefully structured plot. Perhaps this was intentional, putting across a naturalistic feel to proceedings, though the styled dramatic effects created by the lighting design and use of props, while well-executed, jarred with the ‘warts and all’ nature of Terry’s storytelling.
There were times when I was left wondering where a piece of the monologue was going. For a show that eventually draws out themes such as psychological well-being and the consequences of both pushy parenting and parental neglect, too much time is spent talking about an infestation of ladybirds in Terry and Mina’s house. There may have been a metaphor somewhere in ladybird coffins and burying the past (no actual ladybirds suffer harm in this production), which is fair enough, but even this was a tad overdone.
It is, nonetheless, an intriguing life story. Before the show starts, there’s a sound of a metronome ticking away. It was rather irritating, even if there’s something in the ticking of the metronome about Terry having to, figuratively speaking, march to the beat of the rhythm of others. It’s all rather heart-breaking and relentless, without so much as a definitive ray of hope as The War on Terry rages on.
As tends to be the case with single-performer productions, the audience doesn’t have the benefit of hearing from the other characters described. We see events from a single perspective: Terry may not get on with his blood family, but it would ideally have been good to have heard girlfriend Mina’s point of view. Some pertinent issues affecting younger males are handled skilfully, even if it is hard to relate to the chain of events: relatively few has, or rather had, a child prodigy for a brother.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“My girlfriend thinks I’m obsessed with death. Well maybe I am, but only as much as the next rotting sack of bones.”
It’s Terry’s birthday. At 27, he is now older than his older brother Danny.
With a shoebox full of dead ladybirds,Terry reminisces over their childhood, whilst fighting to come to terms with his regrets over how things could have been different. A darkly comic monologue about boys, Christmas socks and not growing up.
Developed in support of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) from a multi-award-nominated young playwright.
From 8th to 12th August 2018