Pros: Adrian Edmondson gives a wonderfully assured performance.
Cons: The story isn’t particularly dynamic.
Adrian Edmondson wakes up on stage. Specifically, he wakes up lying on the gleaming white wedge that forms the dominant feature of Lily Arnold’s minimalist set. Edmondson’s nameless character explains that he’s been sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his office because his relationship with his girlfriend has fallen apart. What follows is a journey into the pain and loneliness of a midlife crisis.
Edmondson gives a masterfully controlled performance, exposing the indignities of aging and his character’s misfortunes without directly soliciting pity or going for easy laughs. It’s a restrained but powerful turn that holds the audience’s attention for the play’s full 75 minutes.
At the heart of the story are the protagonist’s ex and their son. These characters are almost exclusively referred to as “my little boy” and “my little boy’s mother”, and Edmondson guides us on a trip to see them both, during which the details of his character’s story emerge.
Above the sheen of the white floor, suspended over Edmondson’s head on wires, are dozens of children’s playthings and possessions, several of which the actor unhooks and uses as props. A Beano becomes an adult newspaper and a Wendy house amusingly encapsulates the absurdity of escalating property prices. Those objects which aren’t utilised by the actor hang over him emitting metaphoric potential. It’s a marvellously creative yet simple design.
Adapted by Edmondson and director Steve Marmion from the book by William Leith, the script doesn’t offer anything astonishingly dramatic or surprising, but does ring true and features some beautifully evocative passages. Edmondson’s brilliantly observed description of a dying mackerel flapping in a plastic bag is given additional resonance by his detached but curious portrayal of this memory. Elsewhere, the humiliation of poverty, the inexorability of bodily decline and the precariousness of life are sketched with skill and truthfulness.
When Edmondson’s character reaches his destination, there’s a wonderfully crafted scene in which he senses the possibility of hope during a moment of contact with “the mother of my little boy”. Perhaps there is a chance to find a better future after all? However, the play’s fittingly circular narrative returns us to where we began, and the gradual, inevitable falling away of existence.
This is a production which is unlikely to leave audiences amazed, but which evokes perhaps a more important quality: compassion.
Authors: Adrian Edmondson, Steve Marmion (adapted from William Leith’s book)
Director: Steve Marmion
Producer: Soho Theatre
Booking Until: 3 December 2016
Box Office: 02074780100
Booking Link: http://sohotheatre.com/whats-on/bits-of-me-are-falling-apart/