Sunday 24th September

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The Jack Studio Theatre: Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji

| Culture, Hidden London, Theatre | 30/08/2013

Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji
Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji
Rating:

The wonderful Brockley Jack pub is barely recognisable since its refit and a lovely place to spend an evening. The advantage of seeing another top-rate play at the adjoining Studio Theatre is a true bonus! Or should that be the other way around! You decide. The theatre is currently showing three plays by Brixtonian Howard Colyer. A signature of the venue seems to be setting the scene and on this occasion we enter to crescending sounds of the sea…

Play 1: Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji

Female and male demonstrate gentle Tai Chi in anticipation of ensuing dialogue that is indeed sparse and poetic. They weave an intimate, discursive tapestry: a meeting of minds driven by a shared passion for writing – and minor successes on the fringe, ahem – their intellectual aspirations mixed with life-goals in a sensual, slinky directorial début by Sarah Marr. The pair skit upon recognisable elements of romance, if play-writing is a metaphor that most of us are unfamiliar with. And whilst some of the set-shifting seems also arbitrary is it a further metaphor for their relationship and for relationships in general?

Colyer is writing about what he knows – as expressed by Hannah who says “You are what you eat…” – but this is a strength, and the dissection-board proves irresistibly tempting. Gosia Roksa’s Polish accent works well in the scope of otherness and her stage presence is strong; John Patton’s gentle stoicism in perfect alignment as she pushes every insecurity onto him. Colyer creates a sense of the audience listening-in to intimate exchange, and it does not fail to occur to the viewer that this character-dissection is akin to the process of play-writing.

Conference Call

Conference Call

Play 2: Conference Call

Straight into the next play and the previous, odd scene-shift is immediately revealed as clever and surprising. Fast-paced, snappy strands of dialogue are as refreshing as a sorbet between courses – whilst the Bohemian Rhapsody style lighting by Stuart Glover is extraordinarily effective. It is going slightly mad and all the better for it. Another stylish and confident direction from Scott Le Crass, following Colyer’s recent translation of Mandrake.

The best writing sets-up questions. Why has the leading man written this peculiar account? And why is he conference-calling it? Is it really a ghost story? Or is he the ghost? Is the ghost the remembrance of things past? Are the Call-Ups ghosts, called up?

Amidst the unravelling Mr Mill entangles in the process of self-questioning, as do we. More is said in his “I can’t answer that…” responses and pass-me-by mutterings; the mythic act of ghost-catching spouting metaphoric streams like phosphorescent ectoplasm. The relentlessness of this nightmarish scenario transfixes us to the last. The trio of Call-Ups win the Thespian triple-crown – Jess Tobert is startlingly deft – but Daniel Wiltshire allows it with a skill of distinction.

Nothing Else Ever

Nothing Else Ever

Play 3: Nothing Else Ever

Sarah Marr returns to direct the gripping ‘final act’ in this beautiful triptych. Judy Tcherniak is indescribable as the older war-widow reminiscing and not-exactly-regretting. She is mirrored, somewhat morosely, by an austere Gareth Pilkington. Life is complex: Colyer’s gift is harnessing its bittersweetness – almost conclusively – leaving space enough for the viewer to imprint their experience as another facet turns. Nothing Else Ever is a summative title for a swift and almost-deadly two-hander; a potent reminder of the effects of war then as now. Powerful and poignant, I want to replay it again and again.

 

Martin’s Travel Route: 

4 stops on the Overground from Canada Water to Honor Oak Park.

Walk down Honor Oak Park (road) and left into Stondon Park (road) – 10 minutes total.

Ballast Theatre

Showing until Saturday 7 September, 2013

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