Pros: A dynamic performance from Edmund Digby-Jones.
Cons: The limited character development makes for an unsatisfying resolution.
Timothy Turner’s Being As I Am begins with a nameless protagonist in moderately mussed evening dress (Edmund Digby-Jones) walking into a room furnished with five bottles of gin upon a table, two glasses, and a single chair. He is, by all appearances, very drunk. Seeing the assemblage of bottles, he expresses a sentiment along the lines of ‘something about this situation just feels right’. An appreciative snigger from the audience indicates that perhaps some of us are more familiar with this type of predicament than we might otherwise wish to admit.
Our protagonist then tries to ascertain why exactly he’s in the state in which he finds himself–and in which he intends to continue, judging by the volume of available intoxicants. Running through a series of vague but portentous options as to why he’s drinking to forget, including the end of the universe by drowning and/or fire, and his own commission of some sort of horrible crime against humanity, Digby-Jones does a fantastic job of keeping the energy up throughout this physically demanding performance. The appearance of a voice from the past gives scope for some variety and depth of characterisation. The changing pace and emotional pitch also keep the monologue invigorated, though it is repetitive in parts as the protagonist almost ritualistically examines his present situation and his emotional relationship with everything outside his immediate surroundings. Digby-Jones gives every appearance of a man in the midst of an existential crisis; for all we know, he’s hallucinating to escape an excruciating situation in his real life. Or he could just be a guy with boutonniere and a lot of gin. It’s hard to tell.
For me, the most dramatic moment of the afternoon came when I nearly passed out about five minutes before the end due to sudden overheating. The King’s Head is far from the stuffiest venue I’ve been to in London, so this was as much of a surprise to me as it was to everyone else in the audience, who I hope I didn’t distract too much by suddenly collapsing like a Victorian lady who forgot her smelling salts.
My one disappointment with this show is the seeming lack of resolution – and I’m not just saying this because I keeled over like a listing juniper hedge; we never do find out exactly why our protagonist is knocking back gin with such determination. Without any character progression the dynamism of the production ultimately feels hollow. This is also reflected in Demitri Kastelanides’s haunting, almost disturbing musical refrain which recurs at intervals throughout the play: there’s a sense that this ditty has a deeper significance but it never becomes clear what exactly that is. Throughout the show it seems like we’re building towards a big moment where everything will come together in a final revelation about Life, the Universe, and Everything. Without that, we’re left with a messy set of questions and vague suppositions, and, of course, quite a few empty bottles. But at least there’s something to mull over in the bar afterwards, clutching the inevitable G&T.
Author and Director: Timothy Turner
Composer: Demetri Kastelanides
Box Office: 0207 478 0160
Booking Until: 1st June 2014