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Review: Medium Font, online @ The Stables

“Am I a liar?” is the question set by Lucy Verity (Claire-Monique Martin), as she recounts how she discovered she was a medium and clairvoyant in this new show by Ben Randall. But truth can be subjective and not always clear.The format of this one woman show reflects the ambiguous space that Lucy inhabits. She is presenter not only on the stage but also in a streamed event. Simultaneously she acts as a connection between the living and the dead. This sense of the indefinite underscores the entire production, effectively at times, but ultimately clouding the underlying message, rather…

Summary

Rating

Good

A competently presented examination of ideas of faith, truth and the media, but ultimately not ‘clairvoyant’, as the underlying message gets lost in psychic mist

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“Am I a liar?” is the question set by Lucy Verity (Claire-Monique Martin), as she recounts how she discovered she was a medium and clairvoyant in this new show by Ben Randall. But truth can be subjective and not always clear.

The format of this one woman show reflects the ambiguous space that Lucy inhabits. She is presenter not only on the stage but also in a streamed event. Simultaneously she acts as a connection between the living and the dead. This sense of the indefinite underscores the entire production, effectively at times, but ultimately clouding the underlying message, rather than offering a ‘clairvoyant’ understanding of it.

The opening set echoes the conflict of feeling and fact; a highly theatrical scene on one side (a vintage room space) and a TED talk stage on the other. Dividing these is an enormous screen. It displays an image of an enigmatic woman holding a crystal ball, thus bringing technology and the mystic together. What follows rasies questions about issues of reality, interpretation, and faith.

Lucy takes to the stage, examining what we actually know about life and death, and how we know it. Must we rely on science for proof, or are there things we perceive instinctively, for which we don’t need hard evidence? To support this, she suggests that “71% of millennials believe in an afterlife”. She tells how a meeting with an astrologist revealed that she could hear the voices of the dead, but aligns this with the disclosure that she was at that time traumatised by her mother’s death, thus leaving the true cause of the voices uncertain.

At times she speaks directly to an unseen auditorium audience, whilst at others she talks directly to camera, addressing those elsewhere. This feeds into the sense of the doubt created, challenging what we believe to be and what is the truth. The large screen gives substance to the characters she describes, photography adding an almost documentary quality within an unlikely story, reliant on the faith of the listener for credibility. She explains that the spirit voices in her head cause her to visualise text in a distorted manner, hence the play on words of a ‘medium font’.

Martin’s performance is self-assured in the role of presenter-cum-lecturer, but at times some of the further characterisation is questionable, particularly as she adopts different accents to represent people from the past. Moments of humour within the script break up the lecturing style of the delivery, but the use of a laugh-track leaves them seeming contrived, and the bizarre outburst into a Barry Manilow song makes for an uncomfortable moment. The laugh-track may have been intended to give the false impression of an audience in the auditorium, feeding into the final reveal, but it comes across as too engineered. Technically, the staging is proficient. Interesting uses of camera angles break up what might otherwise be just a head-on presentation. 

This is a confident show that sets up an atmosphere of doubt from which to comment on contemporary issues of the media and public belief. However, when the time comes to challenge the audience, the message does not cut through the psychic mist to offer clarity in its argument. It feels like vague suggestion rather than insight, and a little spliced in. The show also ends with quite a cheesy ‘Most Haunted’-style sign-off, which is sadly predictable and further undercuts its serious side. There’s interesting content here, but it needs to come over from the other side more clearly.

Written, produced and directed by: Ben Randall
Creative director: Neil Bellman
Technical Manager: Jonathan Richardson
Original music by: Sam Catmur

Medium Font is currently available free online via the below link.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 12 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre as a Marketing Assistant, tour guide, archivist and volunteer of all sorts, but is currently battling with an MA in London’s Theatre at Roehampton University instead of making a living.