Review: Misterman

It’s always nice to have a few days to really think about a play – let its story settle into your memory and allow all the different observations play themselves out before you formulate some coherent thoughts to share. It’s been 4 days since I’ve seen Landmark Productions’ Misterman, as part of the Galway Arts Festival, and I’m still in two minds about whether I loved the play or not.

Needless to say Cillian Murphy gave a really great performance, his storytelling abilities are fantastic and he was so well able to bring all the different characters in Thomas’ head to life, that in some ways I think if it was just Thomas and his tape recorders on stage, the play would have been more impressive to me. I know I’m definitely in a minority though when I say that. I’m very aware that many have been hugely impressed by the production.

The story itself is quite absorbing – Thomas Magill holds huge resentment for the variety of characters he interacts with from his small home town and details the sinful activities of each in his notebook, in between replaying over and over again interviews he has taped with a whole host of characters – think Krapp’s Last Tape minus the bananas.

However Thomas does not just judge others, he also punishes some, with great violence which reveals a darker and more terrifying side to this otherwise quirky and entertaining character. Predicably Thomas goes too far with his punishments, and his neighbours decide they’ve had enough.

My taste in theatre particularly relishes a stage stripped bare with very little props or special effects (with a few exceptions of course) – for instance I thought the horse was too much of a prop in Sam Shepard’s “Kicking a Dead Horse”, yeah I know, I’m a weirdo. I love a monologue where the actor’s story telling abilities are allowed to ring true. For the most part this is what happened in Misterman but there were a few moments when I thought the production got a little too fussy and distracted from the colourful stories being told by a very animated Thomas. Thomas is such a lively, Walter Mittyesque character that I think he alone could carry the story – for me, I’m not so sure that things falling from the ceiling, rain machines and roll out grass were completely necessary.

As I said, I do know I’m in the minority that thinks that and I was won over by a great story being told by someone with the ability to completely transform themselves into a multitude of characters on stage; it’s just that at that point, everything else was superflous.

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