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Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre – Review

Howard Colyer
Directed by Sarah Marr and Scott Le Crass
★★★★

Pros: Produced perfectly, performed fantastically, written engagingly.

Cons: I did not really understand the point of the final play, Nothing Else Ever.

Our Verdict: An enjoyable evening where I inhaled the riveting performances. Judging by the quality of these shows, Ballast Theatre is a company to watch out for.

Courtesy of Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Although entitled Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji, this show was actually made up of three short plays: Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji, Conference Call and Nothing Else Ever. Ballast Theatre delivers intriguing performances and an intensely fresh production of Howard Colyer’s short but fascinating trio of plays.

Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji, directed by Sarah Marr, introduces us to Hannah (Gosia Roska) and Harold (John Paton), two civil servants whose relationship progresses through their shared love of writing. We see their friendship and subsequent romantic connections develop. All pretty standard, right? Wrong! The magic of Colyer’s writing and Marr’s direction turned an everyday story into something entrancing. The use of physical movement and mirroring beautifully symbolised the nuances in their relationship. The Japanese music and the sounds of waves crashing in between scenes perfectly depicted the drama of their relationship. I truly felt for both the characters: for Harold having to deal with the anxious Hannah, and for Hannah having to deal with a variety of mental issues and impending glaucoma.

The theme of writing, the engaging performances of Roska and Paton, the perfectly timed lighting cues–everything was done masterfully. There was minimal use of props, but the way the actors moved about the stage and used the few props available made it easy to envision the different settings. While the performance ended on a somewhat redundant note, it was nonetheless totally engrossing.

So if this first play was engrossing, Conference Call, directed by Scott Le Crass was completely spellbinding. It begins with Martin Mill (Daniel Wiltshire) making a conference call to three female psychiatric doctors (Jess Tobert, Laura Mulholland and Ruth E. Mortimer). The doctors stand at three podiums which light up when they speak, while Mill sits at a desk trying to make sense of who he is, what is going on in his brain and what happened in his life to lead him to his current crisis.

The doctors interrogate Mill, slowly leading him to recount his eventual breakdown. We see his nonchalance at his wife’s disappearance as he becomes obsessed with a particular ghost at a graveyard. As the intensity of the doctors’ questions increases, so does Mill’s memory. As confusing as this may sound, the story slowly starts to make sense. The three doctors seem to be an abstract version of Mill’s own brain, trying to deal with his actions and struggling to remember what has happened. In my view, this was by far the best play out of the three, incredibly directed by Le Crass and perfectly performed by Wiltshire and his three nagging consciences. Creepy, urgent and shocking, I was taken aback by the power of the short lines and shocking subject matter.

Finally we come to Nothing Else Ever, which followed the elderly Anne and Mungo’s (Judy Tcherniak and Gareth Pilkington) conversation at a care home. This is a very short play recounting Anne’s love life during the war and making reference to Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree. While this play managed to slow my pulse after the last play and was performed thoughtfully, it seemed like an unnecessary endeavour, serving only to showcase Tcherniak’s wonderful acting talents.

I was delighted by these clever and thought provoking plays and was suitably satisfied with an evening well spent in the comfortable Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. Ballast Theatre excelled in delivering some incredibly commanding productions. Definitely a company to keep an eye on. Ditto with all who performed, directed and of course writer Colyer himself.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Never Have I Seen Mount Fuji runs until 7 September 2013 at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre.
Box office: 0844 8700 887 or book online at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/brockleyjackstudio/events.

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