Pros: Writer/performer Andrew Maddock shines from page to stage.
Cons: A bit too fast-paced; it was hard to get all the details, plus a double bill one-man show requires a lot of focus from the audience.
I’m never one to choose to see a one-man show; as a life-long theatre-goer, my preference has always been for shows bursting with cast chemistry and tension. Still, reviewing single actor shows more often than not brings pleasant surprises, and Andrew Maddock’s double-bill at The Old Red Lion, The Me Plays, was a particularly pleasant adventure into one-man-ville.
The evening begins with Junkie, an unforgiving and cringefully humorous meditation on ‘our digital age’, as Maddock (playing ‘Me’) repeatedly calls it. After swiping right for Tabatha on Tinder, Me engages us in a 40-minute, anxiety –ridden monologue, with themes ranging including his porn addiction, shopping at Topman, lunch hour drinking binges, and his fear of intimacy. In this first piece, Maddock draws attention to the paradoxical life that many members of modern society lead: we can boast constant connection and access to people around the world, and yet a fear of losing control drives us to such lengths of fear that we use technology more often to isolate ourselves than to broaden our experiences.
After a brief intermission, we return to the Old Red Lion’s cozy upstairs black box for Hi Life, I Win, in which, preparing for a biopsy, Me reflects on his childhood memories, primarily focused on his struggle with his faith and his relationship with authority figures as a preteen. This piece sees Me reaching for something beyond himself, considering, in particular, his mother, and what the outcome of his tests will do for her. He goes so far as to say he lives for her, in direct contrast to the Me of Junkie, who lives for and by himself.
Two 40-minute acts is quite a feat for a solo performer, and I must say it felt a bit long, though I applaud Maddock’s performance and clear intention to create balance by presenting the two pieces within the same evening. Together, the double bill offered a chance to consider unique and contrasting views of the human experience at once: Junkie, with its preoccupation with solitude and the isolation which is incurred by a technologically driven culture, is expertly foiled by Hi Life, I Win. The former focuses on the failures, monotonies, and neuroses of everyday living, the ease at which we close others out because we are afraid to lose control, while the latter insists that at the end of the day, we need and seek connection, to ourselves and our loved ones.
Maddock, as both writer and performer, is excellent. His script is poetic, funny, and humorously irreverent. His choice of subject material in both pieces is apt, and approached with a singular touch. He showcases a fine balance of vulnerability and swag, creating unique and relatable characters. In particular his use of rhythm and rhyme throughout proved impressive, though I would have liked him to slow the pace just a tad, as I found myself missing jokes, nuggets of wisdom, and other valuable bits of information.
Maddock is equipped with a polished but abstract set. The walls of the black box theatre are decorated with sharp lines and geometric shapes. Junkie features some blocks and stools across the stage for Maddock to sit, plus an interesting semi-circle of vertical poles centre stage, which drew particular attention to him when he stood amongst them. Hi Life, I Win anchors him front and centre, between an upright hospital bed and a pile of sand and dirt.
In all, The Me Plays is a one-man show I would choose, and you should too. I can certainly say I’m eager to keep tabs on Maddock’s career as writer and performer, as his work in both categories was stellar.
Author: Andrew Maddock
Director: Ryan Bradley
Producer: Sarah Milton
Booking Until: 20 September 2014
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Booking Link: http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/