Abigail Bryant reviews Odd Man Out at The Hope Theatre
Odd Man Out comprises of two stories, each performed individually, and each exploring one man’s venture into a society which doesn’t deem him in line with what is culturally normal. Although the two tales hold no relation to each other, the way that they contrast in tone makes for a balanced and diverse evening of entertainment. However, both monologues err on the side of self-indulgence, and are told in an overly dramatic manner which jars with intimate and confined venue of The Hope Theatre. Very human writing is transformed into performances which, for some, are undoubtedly entertaining, but entirely lacking in authenticity and human charm.
Rabbitskin, the first of the double bill of monologues, is written by Dominic Grace and performed by Luke Adamson. Adamson relays the troubled past and present of Joe, our book-obsessed protagonist that struggles to begin his own story, but once he does it tumbles out of him with childish nostalgia, fits of rage and evocative illustration. He impressively commands the small and basic set, and provides an hour of nuanced and engaging storytelling. Unfortunately, at times it feels a little over-dramatised, and what is clearly intelligent and compelling writing becomes devoid of any subtlety and read as though from a script. The insular nature of the tale demands genuine authenticity, and it’s a shame that Adamson does not succumb to his character wholly and rather enacts ‘out of body’ experiences like a trained dancer and not like the fragile and distressed boy he is embodying. On the whole though, Rabbitskin is an interesting hour of an intricate and complex story.
The second performance comes from Gregory Ashton, who performs Diaries of a Welshcake with determined vigour and flamboyance. Written by Leslie Ross , this monologue charts the relocation of Welsh national Ralph to Hong Kong, confronting and imparting a handful of cliché culture-shock anecdotes and questionable accent imitations. Not only is the story itself weak, there’s a transparent lack of authenticity to the performance – it feels as though Ashton has told this story many times, and the performance feels tired and unoriginal. Although there are elements of fun (helped along by snacks and edible hail) Diaries of a Welshcake is hard to digest and even harder to incite any genuine emotion. Like Rabbitskin, it borders on self-indulgent and overdoes sentimentality where it is not justified. Both plays explore themes of isolation, vulnerability and mental health, but unfortunately both would be conveyed more effectively as texts, and not as theatre performances.
Odd Man Out plays at The Hope Theatre until 12th August 2017.