Written and Directed by Enda Walsh
Pros: Powerful acting supports a complex, beautiful and well-constructed story in a intricately devised setting.
Cons: Desperately sad.
Our Verdict: An unsettling experience but an incredible night of theatre.
There aren’t many shows in life that can genuinely make you feel something deep beneath your skin. Misterman
achieves that, if for no other reason than bestowing you with the sincere desire to take a shower. The production is probably the dirtiest, dustiest, sweatiest thing to ever bless the stages of the National Theatre
. But between bouts of Cillian Murphy’s eccentric dialogues, unhinged leaps across the stage and snacking that will put you off food for a month, something slightly brilliant takes place.
Thomas, Murphy’s mentally detached character, may be the only person we see on stage but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-man monologue; Murphy interacts with the recorded voices of a cohort of other characters while quite literally tearing the set to pieces. Jamie Vartan’s set, a derelict parking complex and the abode of Murphy’s homeless character, is a vast wasteland of discarded objects and broken furniture, all of which play a part in Thomas’ murky narrative. The vastness, and the complexity of the set is the last thing you would expect from a one-man show – stretching back 20 metres, over two floors and saturated with impressive lighting from Adam Silverman. The stage is quite literally alive, and as much a star opposite Murphy as a setting for his energetic performance.
The play’s strongest point is the subtle development from Thomas’s insane ramblings into a disturbing narrative mosaic. What appears at first to be random interactions with imagined voices gradually takes on a darker tone as we realise that we are hearing the recordings of real people from Thomas’ past – the jovial and eccentric episodes that Murphy constructs on stage are a reconstruction of a day that gave way to an irreparable trauma in his character’s life.
Misterman suffers the fate of most avante-garde entertainment, it’s deep, it’s provocative, it’s moving but it’s deeply grim. While Murphy does a stunning job of eeking laughs out of the audience in the greyest of scenarios, there’s little joy in this production.
Aside from a feeling of depression, and perhaps uncleanliness, Misterman offers the faint sensation of being savagely beaten up. Extremely loud music, objects thrown aggressively around the stage and Murphy’s cathartic screams are far more obtrusive than one would expect from a night at the theatre. Yet that’s really the strength of the production, it feels as though we’re grappling with a hoard of angry actors in combat rather than the surprisingly short and fragile solitary figure of Murphy. The play is emotive in the extreme.
Love it or hate it, you won’t soon forget the experience of seeing it.
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Misterman runs at the National Theatre until 28th May 2012.
Box Office: 020 7452 3000 or book online at http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/69371/productions/misterman.html