Bipolar Ringmaster (c) Mark MorreauBi Polar Ringmaster

Mish Weaver
Bluecoat, School Lane
29th November 2010

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan

The name on my ticket was Sebastian Nerve, and as pleased as I was with my newly acquired appellation, the real reason I was at the Bluecoat on this cold, frosty evening full of promise and chilblains, was to witness the work in progress that is Bi Polar Ringmaster.

I only discovered that it was a work in progress after the show had finished, and this was a surprising yet also pleasing revelation in that I had enjoyed the show and would have enjoyed more of it too. To whit, the show itself was a representation of the emotional turmoil suffered by people with bipolar disorder - from almost childlike happiness and enthusiasm to utter depression and downward spirals into the deepest depths of sadness. There was laughter, for sure, but there was also an element of sadness too. True, the main character, the Ringmaster (portrayed by Eric MacLennan) was in a circus, traditionally a place of unfettered joy and smiles in abundance, but the paradox of the sad clown was bought to mind by his excellent one man performance.

The show opened with the at first slightly discomforting sight of the actor laying on the floor, legs and arms spread out whilst the in vision signer stood perfectly still with her back to the audience, as atmospheric sound effects pervaded the semi darkness. A few minutes passed until the projector screen flashed and the televisions on the set turned themselves on to show footage of the actor choosing his outfit in an elated state, contrasting colours and ideas in his mind until satisfaction was achieved. He then introduced the audience to some important figures in circus history, and through this part of the show the real magic formed.

The use of audience interaction was pivotal to keeping the flow of events as the Ringmaster went from the scattered excitement of the first half of the show to the dark place the last part of the show finds him in. In darkness, with only a pensive stage light on his floor bound frame, the struggle of movement, both mental and physical, is portrayed as he tries to get himself up from his stupor to face the day and let "the show go on" as he insists that it must. When he finally does get up and face the day, he is ecstatic, dancing around like a stage show cast in his own right and it is on this note that the show finishes for now.

It's a work in progress, but if the finished piece is as good as what I saw then it'll be an excellent show! The pacing, acting and music are all worthy of note and judging from the positive reactions from the audience, there will surely be more to come from this already worthy work.

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