mon 22/07/2019

We're Staying Right Here, Park Theatre review - rough and not entirely ready | reviews, news & interviews

We're Staying Right Here, Park Theatre review - rough and not entirely ready

We're Staying Right Here, Park Theatre review - rough and not entirely ready

Mental distress takes centre-stage in metaphor-heavy play

No way out: Danny Kirrane, Daniel Portman and Tom Canton in 'We're Staying Right Here'David Gill

We're Staying Right Here, Henry Devas's debut play premiering on the smaller of the Park Theatre's two stages, carries a trigger warning on the theatre website: "May be affective for people coping with mental health issues". There's also, we're told, "very strong language, simulated violence, flashing lights, and vaping". Worst of all is when a baby gets handed over to the care of a drunk suicidal depressive as a ticket to calming him down. Don't ever try this at home. 

The set reveals an apartment with the door and windows barricaded from the inside, bolted and nailed shut, where empty vodka bottles roll on the floor and a vintage Paul Newman poster represents the best of internal decoration. There's no way out but there is a way up: a ladder in the centre of the stage offering a route into a world above  a heaven hidden by a glittery fringe like the edge of some flapper's dress. 

The play is full of metaphors for mental distress. Matt, dolefully played by Danny Kirrane (late of Jerusalem), is a weepy-faced comedian in the throes of a hallucinogenic depression but trying to keep sane with a run of jokes so bad they're good. (They tend to be of the "dyslexic man walks into a bar" variety). In the meantime, he has written a list of the people who would be better off without him and toys with a botle of pills. He sleeps in the window cubby hole and appears to live off drink. Daniel Portman in 'We're Staying Right Here'Two unwelcome flatmates share this self-inflicted prison. Tristabel (Tom Canton) is a kind of humourless Richard E. Grant, dressed posh in a waistcoast and high collar, sneery and snide. Benzies (Daniel Portman, who plays Podrick Payne in Game of Thrones) is a loud-mouthed Glaswegian who shoves Matt around and yells in his face that he is a "fucking pussy". They goad Matt over his failure and fear, channeling his violent self-loathing.

Matt is haunted by memories of what he has or has not done to hurt his infant daughter, a subject from which even Tristabel and Benzies shy away. All three are terrorised by noises off: unseen threats outside the apartment. Their sporadic attempts to climb the ladder are marked by a Godot-like circularity and get thrown off by the dramatic arrival of Chris (Liam Smith), a wise-cracking, white-suited mob boss. How much of all this is real and how much imagined?  Sometimes, Tristabel and Benzies join in Matt's doubts, though at other times they behave like raging male harpies. Portman (pictured above), for all his bluster, delivers a nuanced performance, but I struggled to distinguish between the voices on Matt's shoulder. The ending, frankly, verges on the fatuous. 

Devas and his director Jez Pike have plunged full-pitch into the labyrinth of the mind, which makes for a rough-edged night out. There's not much to care for in Matt's debasement: too much white noise and too little modulation. We need more space for reflection and more to draw us in or lift us up.

Henry Devas and his director Jez Pike have plunged full-pitch into the labyrinth of the mind, which makes for a rough-edged night out

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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