Surrounded by brown cardboard boxes, sad sack Gareth (a brilliantly deadpan Tommy Burgess) cuts a pitiful figure.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Greenside @ Royal Terrace (Venue 231)
He’s lost his job at Prime Travels, made an enemy of former boss (and supposed friend) Derrick Wentworth, lives with his mum, struggles to live up to the memory of his dad and spends what’s probably too much of his time gambling. Not that that last part is necessarily a problem, mind you. Gareth has a system. Gareth has a plan.
The set design by Nicola Ralph is perfect, as Gareth’s array of boxes opens up to reveal tea sets, telephone booths and crude diagrams of his enemies. Liz Bacon’s direction is also superb – as Gareth reshapes and re-arranges the set around him, we’re not so much misdirected as presented with the trees instead of the wood, with Gareth’s masterplan coming to glorious fruition (or monumental catastrophe – it’d be unfair to say which) moments ahead of the audience’s realisation.
If there’s a minor flaw here, it’s that Martin Brett’s script could use tightening up in a few places – there are a few meta moments (such as Gareth vocalising his discomfort in large groups while glancing around the audience) that are certainly funny but undermine the play’s end result. The final act is also guilty of escalating far too quickly – while Gareth’s sudden endgame is a thrilling reveal, it’s at odds with the gradual, patiently developed character study of the preceding 40 minutes.
This is undoubtedly the point – it’s a proper sideswipe manoeuvre that leaves the audience reeling with the impact – but on reflection it feels somewhat cheaply bought. In the moment though, the whole production deserves praise for leaving you so confidently duped.
Until 27 August. Today 5:25pm.