Edward Gants Amazing Feats Of Lonliness – The audience has lost its way. (Theatre review)
Edward Gants Amazing Feats of Loneliness
PACT theatre, Polyamorous Productions
4 May to Saturday 7 May. You can grab your ticket here.
Photo credits: Liam O’Keefe
When Anthony Neilson has Edward Gant (Will Hickey) forge his final tragic lament, it is impossible to miss that his soulful loneliness is the loneliness of theatre itself. He imagines theatre as the tragic search for a lost love from a time long ago. As he warns Nicholas Ludd (Jonathan Lagudi) – his rebellious cast member – about the possibility of theatres demise, his words come as a caution: They could see themselves performing only for the white bourgeoisie and the terminally lazy. Not to mention, he threats, the critics. It is to this claim Anthony Neilson speaks as we notice more and more that the vibrancy and talent on the stage is not reflected in its audience. There’s nothing wrong with the theatre, says Anthony Neilson. But there is something wrong with its audience.
And who better to embody this principle than the soulful Edward Gant, the ringmaster, poet, philosopher, playwright, performer, actor, producer, director that embodies so many of today’s brilliant creative’s? Theatre makers condemned to small venues and thankless audiences as the world imagines theatre has lost its value, subsequently forging a fact from a fiction. The theatre maker is the great ironist; they know the best show they can deliver will be the one where they die on the stage. But they are condemned to the critical metaphysician audience. The audience driven to spot an apparent contradiction between two banalities, two intuitively plausible propositions, and then propose a distinction which will resolve the contradiction. Judgements are made based on “intuition” which are followed by a network of associated distinctions – a philosophical theory or a kind of mathematical proof – which will take some of the strain off the original distinction. Critical judgement in the audience has lost its way, forcing an Either-or dichotomy (this play is good, or this play is bad – or some variation of this) that inevitably stalls and strips the theatre of the magical possibility that your intuitions are merely platitudes. When we change or challenge our perspective we have not discovered a deeper fact or journeyed toward a higher truth, therefore we have no need for dichotomies nor proofs of position. Theatres audacity – more than any other art form – is that it rudely insists on its own position for the briefest possible time, and facts must be converted to platitudes for this transference to take place, not the other way around. Edward Gant’s protagonist may search the world for a cure for his insistent perspective, but all such a cure will do is kill him. As, Anthony Neilson suggests, is happening to theatre today.
And so for the briefest time, new theatre company Polyamorous Productions have a spectacular performance of Edward Gants Amazing Feats of Loneliness available at the funky and intellectually generous PACT theatre. This is a wonderful first production for the small theatre company, particularly considering the ambitious choice of Anthony Neislon and his multiple enormous perversions – perversions I hasten to add that make him one of my favourite playwrights. This event bodes well for Polyamourous Production Theatre Company, not only in their choice of debut play, but in the excellent performances director Natasha Pesce has been able to draw from her talented cast. Such a rough and tumble display is difficult to pull of with such depth of understanding as this cast manage as they take confident possession of the difficult material.
Will Hickey is a soulful and tragic Edward Gant with enough charisma to keep the audience attached to his perspective and enamoured by his leadership of the small troupe. His Edward Gant exudes a peculiar maturity laced with a showman’s allure. Hickey keeps his Gant in command, an older, wiser Neilson if you will, allowing his tales of loneliness and woe a narrators grace. He stands otherworldly, yet enigmatic and potent. This is Nicole Wineberg’s second Anthony Neilson production in 2016, a playwright who suits her depth and disarming take on the feminine mystique. Wineberg is Madame Poulet, playing with the tropes of beauty and innocence with ingratiating animation and a dark and accidental mischief that the actor does so well. Ralph Andrews brings a touch of the Beckett clown to Jack Dearlove, taking trips, tilts and stumbles to forge humanity in his character. Nicholas Ludd is played by Jonathan Lagudi with his act of eventual rebellion built in from the start through his mini deviations from his script, funny appropriation of little accidents with wigs and powerful ownership of his character. Lagudi can solicit joy, gets the bulk of the funny lines and exudes warmth that makes us love him.
Edward Gants Amazing Feats of Loneliness is a powerful conversation about the nature of theatre, where it might be headed, what its role is within us and who we are in the face of it. All this depth and insight is wrapped up in Neilsons dark humour, subversive bad taste and disarming wisdom. Polyamourous Productions have brought a thrilling night of theatre to the PACT stage that genuinely rivals the far more moneyed and high profile incarnations of the show in the past. Try to get a ticket during its unfortunately short run.