EFR - Reviews of Richard Parker

Richard Parker

Sun 21st – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Craig Slade

at 11:06 on 22nd Aug 2011

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Seeing something as slick, professional, and well-rehearsed as Richard Parker is a different experience for me; I’m used to reviewing predominantly amateur and student groups. What is there to criticise, then? What is there to assess? The performances were robust and accomplished, the direction was spot-on – there really is little wrong with this piece.

It therefore seems that to assess it on the same level as the majority of the amateur drama in Edinburgh would be folly. Considering it in terms of professional theatre, there are a few elements which I believe prevent this from having the ‘wow’ factor of a five star show.

Whilst the script is strong, there is some level of emotional depth missing, which meant the ending of the piece seems, to an extent, unsatisfying. Nevertheless, the two characters are expertly written and well characterised; particularly Gareth Bale as Richard Parker is a terrifying incarnation of insanity and evil. The plot focuses on a man obsessed with coincidence; he bases his entire life upon it – and imposes this delirium upon the play’s victim, played by Alastair Sill. It did however feel as though, after the umpteenth coincidence was explained between Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln and the farmer called Macdonald whose zip code happened to contain the letters E- I-E-I-O, that the playwright was running out of ideas. I have nothing but praise for Owen Thomas’s dialogue and power play between the two men, but this play seems somewhat of a one-trick-pony in terms of concepts and ideas.

If there were faults in the staging they were few and far between, but tweaks could have been made to costume and set in order to make everything as authentic as it needed to be to fulfil Parker’s obsession. The fact that the men were wearing precisely the same costume (by coincidence, no doubt) but different shoes, was disappointing, as was the apparent precision bombing by seagull faeces that left the men coated in ranks – straight and evenly divided ranks – of feculence stains.

But yes, my pedantry shouldn’t stop you going to see this highly enjoyable and interesting play – and neither should the six flights of stairs up to the top studio of C venues. It’s a play that will make you never look at someone who’s put on the same jumper as you in the same way.

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Lise McNally

at 11:28 on 22nd Aug 2011

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This deliciously dark comedy delivers all that we’d expect from a professional production. Cleverly conceived and expertly pitched, an interesting and funny script unites with a pacey delivery to make for an exciting afternoon’s viewing. For those inclined towards conspiracy theories, who gasp with amazement at a Farmer called McDonald whose post code is EIEIO (true story), or who like to think that your name determines your fate, this is a show not to be missed.

Richard Parker explores the well worn paths of pre-determination and coincidence with a fresh and lively comic approach. The quietly ordinary, easily-characterised-by-his-socks-and-sandals-ensemble Richard Parker (Alastair Sill) meets an enigmatic stranger in a long trench coat (Gareth John Bale) on a ferry. Coincidence? Well, let’s just see.

Given that the plot twists are by far the show’s greatest strength, I’m reluctant to say anything other than that which will pique your curiosity and get you into the audience. It’s safe to say that surprises are plenty, and the show toes the perfect line between funny and creepy to keep the audience engaged and thinking at the same time. The acting is faultless from both members of the cast, with Sill’s understated reserve giving way convincingly to an eye-popping mania. His character is funny, sweet, and entirely out of his depth. Against this vulnerability, Bale is charismatic, witty and utterly terrifying. He manages to bring out the full comic potential of his character without melting the veneer of power and authority which makes it so very hard to take your eyes off him. Between them they hold your attention to the last second, filling the small stage with a riveting energy. Bale in particular deserves praise for his seeming ability to speak great strings of speech quickly, clearly, and without drawing breath.

What mysterious fates are governing the randomness of life remains unknown, but it was certainly no coincidence that everyone in the audience seemed amused and intrigued by the production. Rather, it was the inevitable result of a fine piece of writing performed by a talented cast. Still, perhaps it is your fate to go and enjoy this play? Perhaps not, but go and see it anyway.

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