The Escapologist

Suspect Culture
Written by Adam Phillips (book) and Simon Bent (text)
Directed by Graham Eatough
Everyman Theatre, 21st-25th February 2006

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I perversely enjoyed this strange and bewildering production by Scottish theatre company Suspect Culture.

The Escapologist does not uplift the spirits or make you glad to be alive. The characters generally pontifcate about the sorrowful state of their lives, musing on how life has given them a bad deal.

The symbolic aspects relating to the exploits of Harry Houdini are fairly strong. The cast are bound by emotional ties in relationships, bound to their plight, and constrained or unable to break free from what is troubling them.

The play - set in what appeared to be a loft - has six characters, but it is difficult to fathom out who is a companion to one of the other characters on stage. They include a psychiatrist (Kevin McMonagle), a neurotic female doctor played by Selina Boyack (whose vocal delivery was less than captivating), and a roofer called 'Boss' by his assistant (Tommy Mullins). The boss in question (Paul Blair) has a major drink problem due to the collapse of his marriage - not exactly profound stuff. There is also an intriguing schoolgirl character (Mary-Anne Lynch Small) who mysteriously kept shielding her eyes with her hands, and repeatedly voicing the need to look and see.

The programme adds to the confusion that most people in the audience felt conerning the theme(s) of the play by not having character names alongside the names of the actors.

There is a novel touch during the interval when film of Houdini performing his feats of escape is screened to those of the audience who remain seated throughout the fifteen minute period.

The video projections shown during the play are effective, as well as the music of a piano player (David Paul Jones), performing various interpretations of the Acker Bilk instrumental 'Stranger on a Shore'. The play is strange indeed!

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