Home » Reviews » Off West End » The Atheist, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

The Atheist, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Ronan Noone
Directed by Hugh Ross

Pros: An interesting insight into a world that is written, created and manipulated by the media from the perspective of one overly self-aware journalist.

Cons: While this one man performance is impressive, there could have been better differentiation between the female characters. The slight predictability of the plot made the end points of acts less impactful than they should have been.

Our Verdict: A compelling story of relevance well-told. However, the one man characterisation of multiple roles slightly negates any poignancy for the audience.

Courtesy of the Lion & Unicorn

A show about a crooked journalist seems rather relevant at the moment. But I’m not sure if even James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks have seen the likes of one Augustine Early, a journalist from Southern USA. Early decided very early on to give up on God – a bit of a black sheep move in that part of the world – to free himself for greatness. Without God he says, there is no fear of consequence. And so, when he decides to pursue fame and fortune in the form of journalism, he takes control of his own destiny by creating his own story. He becomes the master manipulator and, to a certain degree, the creator of his own scoop with a variety of consequences, that of both career, money and celebrity propulsion and the tragic sort.

Augustine Early is a complex character. I don’t think there is a Drama module at University on how to play a seemingly soul-less but somehow not entirely despicable character, which is probably trickier than it sounds. But Jonathan Chambers as Early, and the host of characters/Early’s puppets & victims, skillfully draws us into Early’s world. Specifically, this is an almost completely cognitive, emotionless world where nearly every action is calculated for its benefit to his ultimate goal. While Chambers’ skill was such that I projected Early’s persona onto this own, there were glimpses of heart and weakness in Augustine’s character that I feel were underplayed. This is particularly true of a scene in which we watch the transformation of a young Augustine from an innocent boy into a Godless, cynical being. This slight lack of emotional subtlety in certain significant moments in the piece is what I believe detracted from a final punch to the ends of both halves of the production.

While it is no mean feat to perform an 80 minute piece involving several characters of both genders all on one’s own, I did find that there was a lack of definition of the female characters who – although painted quite vividly and distinctly so you understood the role and persona of each – did still kind of congeal into one Southern belle. This small niggle does get cast into the background however, as the story is told from Augustine’s perspective allowing him to play the acquaintances and characters of his encounters as he sees fit.

The fact that the production values are rather minimalist – it’s pretty difficult to comment on white light shone onto a chair and desk centered in a black box – obviously puts a great deal of pressure on this one man band and Chambers meets the challenge head on. One person shows tend to make me nervous as it is all too common for them to act as a soap box for the ailments of the actor’s life. The Atheist, however, is a real story, and a pretty fascinating (although rather sickening) one at that, and Chambers is a real storyteller. Despite some minor faults, this is a strong and engaging production that I imagine will only get better with time.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Atheist runs at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 24th November 2012.
Box Office: 08444 999 999 or book online at http://www.giantolive.com/theatheist.html

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