Rachel Blackman is something of a familiar face around Brighton these days, and rightly so: a successful comedienne and performer in her own right, she has now added another feather to her cap with Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear. This one-woman show is remarkable: clever and intricate, as well as being entertaining and a joy to watch; a powerful piece of physical theatre crossed with some genuine and intelligent character comedy, whilst also delivering a cracking story, both hilarious and haunting. A theatrical masterpiece, this show cannot be missed by any Brighton theatre lover: well worthy of the highest of accolades.
One-man shows are often the hardest to pull off: all energy and intent must be derived from a single person, who must be a joy to watch and a chameleon all at the same time. Rachel Blackman certainly has her work cut out for her in this show, and doesn’t disappoint on any count. This is an exception piece of theatre, well performed, excellently written and completely realised within the Nightingale’s black box. There is almost nothing to fault in this performance.
The story is a delight: loosely, it follows Martin Charon, a University lecturer and semi-successful film artist: a man completely in love with himself. As his life starts to unravel, we are introduced to many aspects of his life, including his daughter, his wife, his girlfriend and his amanuensis, Soraya, who is also the narrator, and who’s secondary narrative complements and reinforces Martin’s decline. The script is cracking: funny, intelligent, watchable, and cleverly constructed: a bit like a David Lodge novel, with a huge dollop of physical theatre.
None of this would be important if it weren’t for Blackman: her physical theatre background and comedic talents are the perfect complement for this piece. Covering all of the characters should be more difficult than this, but she slides in and out of the skin of all of them, especially convincing as Martin: her attempt to tell a man’s story as a female performer (as described in the programme) is completely successful. However, it is Soraya who becomes the real lead of this play: her side of the story is all the more devastating due to Blackman’s exceptional performance, picking up an Iranian accent without a moment of satire or pastiche. The physical theatre elements of the piece also help this all come to life: Martin’s energised, self-loving dancing, as well as the moments of almost ballet precision and teetering on the edge all enhance this beyond just a simple character comedy piece.
As should be pretty clear by now, I adored this piece. Luckily, it was also a piece of incredible theatre, with (nearly) not one foot set wrong in the whole piece. The occasional technical fluff was forgiveable, and hardly noticeable, not detracting from the power of the piece, nor the performance given. This is easily one of the better shows in the Brighton Fringe 2010, and must be seen to be believed: therefore, it’s lucky they’ve added a couple of extra nights! This show now also runs on May 19th at 6.30pm and 9pm, and I do recommend you go!