William Alexander Wood
Directed by William Wood
Directed by Steve Fitzgerald
Pros: A strong characterization by Paul Linghorn of the sarcastic and disillusioned writer Leo.
Cons: The noise level from the pub was distracting and the sound used for the productions was turned up too high.
Our Verdict: Two pieces of new writing that demonstrate the breadth of ideas and concerns of young, contemporary playwrights.
|Courtesy of Etcetera Theatre|
On a small stage above a busy Camden pub, two very different stories unfold. In the first, the young writer Leo Wolfe paces his study, bitter and resentful, awaiting his great literary inspiration. In the second, a man, a woman and their unborn child struggle with domestic violence and a disbelief in the virtue of human kind.
Writer’s Block begins even before the audience has filtered into the performance space at the Etcetera Theatre. Leo sits at his typewriter and madly jabs his fingers at the keyboard, furrowing his brow and critically peering at his work. We soon discover that he is suffering the condition that has, in its time, affected great literary figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Leo, in this one-man show, is disenchanted with his work, and even the bottle of rosé that he downs at 4 pm on a weekday afternoon does not assist. While sneering at his “shallow” writing, he muses about past choices, rival writers, and the secret ingredient to great authorship. As an audience, we are given hints about Leo’s past life as he talks into his tape recorder – his mother who sets him writing challenges, a mysterious girl he once called “love”, and a tragic event Leo witnessed, which he – wrongly – imaged would be the start of a brilliant writing career.
It’s a good piece of new writing by William Wood, and I loved Paul Linghorn as Leo. He is a really talented actor, and he has a strong stage presence. Paul is able to do the sarcastic, the comic and the tragic convincingly, and I grew increasingly fond of his scoffing, sour characterization of Leo. I was relieved when, in the end, instead of pulling out a gun in some dramatic suicidal attempt (which I half expected), he finds his true literary inspiration in himself.
I have to admit that I less enjoyed the second performance, Misanthropy by Louise Hart. A young, angry, violent man hates humanity in all its forms. His pregnant girlfriend argues with him, at times loudly and harshly, at times gently and sadly. A seemingly cruel woman, a kind of psychologist, watches over them, commenting on their actions, but her role is never clear. I found the entire piece to be confusing and unpleasant. For one, there was too much shouting going on. This did succeed in raising the tension, but it was unsubtle and unnecessary. Also, I’m still not sure what it was all about, as the dialogue was fragmented and delivered slightly too fast. Maybe this was the point – but it was not really satisfying.
The ending of Misanthropy is brutal, as the man kills his unborn child in a horrible forced abortion. However, I hadn’t really succeeded in understanding his motivations or building any relationship with the characters, so it was not as powerful as it could have been. What I did like was the staging – the sandy stretch of the beach, complete with bucket and spade was beautifully done.
One problem with both of the productions were the noise levels. Firstly, in both Writer’s Block and Misanthropy, sound is used to accompany speech, but it is so loud that one could hardly understand what was being said. In Writer’s Block’s case, it was especially distracting as the music was supposed to come from a mobile phone’s speakers. Secondly, and this is less easy to remedy, the noise from the pub downstairs was very audible – which detracted somewhat from the lovely silent moments in Writer’s Block. The productions both need a bit of fine-tuning, but they do make for an interesting evening of new theatre.
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Writer’s Block/Misanthropy runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 9th November 2013. Box Office: 020 7482 4857 or book online at http://www.etceteratheatre.com/index.php?id=2