Hamlet Smith – 4 stars

Arch 61, London.

Four seemingly disconnected and dysfunctional people, through a series of short intermittent monologues, take us on their roller-coaster ride of increasing frustrations over the course of a day, in this short piece by Spanish playwright Miguel Morillo and translated by Daniel Curshen.

The play drips with misanthropic cynicism. The theme is very simple; as one of the characters declares: “Life is full of hurdles – if you don’t learn how to jump you’re fucked.” We never stray from this one simple idea, and the writer simply expounds upon it as we hurtle towards the conclusion where we discover that, far from being disconnected, each of the characters exasperating irritations are intricately inter-woven. This obvious simplicity may well make it a bit of a ‘Marmite’ piece – indeed, a couple of colleagues with whom I saw it were lukewarm in their reaction to it to say the least. Personally, I loved it, but then I love a good dose of misanthropic cynicism.

It is the strength of the performances, then, which really lifts this play. James McGregor, Candice Palladino, Matt Martin, and Kate Louise Williams are all made to portray pretty much the same sentiment throughout, so it is huge credit to their skill and talent that their characters always remain very different and individual. There is no merging of pace, energy, or intonation and, crucially, one never loses interest in their respective tales. Andrew Kinsler, as the ‘Inner Voice’ of all four characters, shows a real deftness of physical and vocal range. He is very watchable; always there, always doing something which adds to the scene but never unnecessarily pulling focus. His role is a tricky one, and it is adeptly handled.

This piece, directed by Prav MJ, played for just one night at Arch 61 as part of The Nursery Festival. It deserves further outings.

(originally posted 23 October 2011)

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