Pros: A brilliant, energetic performance from Gareth Murphy.
Cons: The story is a little weak and lags considerably.
Getting to the Blue Elephant Theatre never gets any easier, but they treat you so nicely once you get there that it’s hard to be annoyed about the journey. That, coupled with the feeling that you’ve crashed a lovely neighbourhood party – and they have plenty of space for extra guests – means that I’m always happy to make the journey.
Boy in the Darkness is an adaptation of a Mervyn Peake story – a sort of dark fairytale that’s part Little Prince, part Wicked, with all the gymnastic bounce of Pippin. But don’t let my kiddie and West End references fool you, because this story isn’t for kids. It’s gloomy and there gory imagery aplenty. Yet, being caught between two genres is a problem. The show is not appropriate for children, but the narrative and character complexity are pitched at that level nevertheless. There isn’t sufficient depth to the story to keep an audience of 20+s completely engaged for over an hour.
That isn’t to say the performance isn’t impressive – it really is. Gareth Murphy leaps around the stage, clambering up stairs and over radiators, contorting and flipping his body with grace and energy. Murphy switches back and forth between characters: by turns he is a naïve young Earl, a subservient goat, a bullying hyena and an evil blind lamb. Each character comes to life fully onstage, well defined and vibrant.
There is no dip in the performance at any point, although there are moments where the energy is the only thing carrying it, since the story becomes pretty static at points. Parts of it feel like someone has been asked to retell a fairytale they knew as a child and plays for time when they forget what happens next by making their characters have long conversations whilst they are trying to remember. It’s hard to tell whether the original material wasn’t suited to adaptation or whether the adaptation didn’t work, but something isn’t quite right with this piece and consequently, the overall effect suffers. It is however a great showcase for Murphy’s acting talent: he gives a multi-faceted performance that is pure magic.
Writer: Mervyn Peake
Adapted and Performed By: Gareth Murphy
Director: John Walton
Designer: Martin Thomas
Box Office: 020 7701 0100
Booking Link: http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/boy-darkness-0
Booking Until: 4 April 2015