Partially Mouse - Free

Sat 13th – Fri 19th August 2011


Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 10:49 on 15th Aug 2011



If I even attempted to explain the details of the plot of the devised monodrama "Partially Mouse" you wouldn't believe me, because it is absolutely ridiculous. It follows the wacky events which take place after Jack Rosenfeld (played by Daniel Shapiro) is made redundant and turns into a mouse. It involves a snake, an Argentinian dwarf and a Russian scientist. It is bizarre. Shapiro is evidently a very strong actor comfortable on stage, easily bouncing off audience reactions and flexibly acting as Jack Rosenfeld, his wife, life coach, Rosenfeld's imaginary brother and his wife's medicinal pet snake.

Roni Sinai's script - and the direction of this Free Fringe production - is strange enough to fall (far, far) short of being even vaguely amusing. Shapiro's arm - covered with an elbow length snake-skin piece of material - comes to represent the pet snake, and the actor engages in an impressive moment of puppetry which matches the Russian-accented voice of the snake on the loudspeaker. The script is riddled with litanies of cliché, presumably intending to poke fun at stereotypes but miserably failing to do so. The Russian snake demands that Jack drinks an entire bottle of vodka and listens to Stravinsky. Subsequently, "Oriental music" (to quote the script's massive generalisation) begins to play and Shapiro begins to do something akin to belly dancing, albeit with more arm-waving than is conventional. WHAT. Don't worry, I totally didn't get it either - and judging by the bewildered expressions on the faces of audience members, nor did they. Additionally, the setting of the production made for uncomfortable viewing - set in a downstairs section of the Jekyll & Hyde on Hanover Street, each row could only accommodate two audience members, resulting in the audience having to crane their necks in a desperate attempt to understand what was happening. This is not Kafka-esque or intelligent, this does not shock or challenge, this simply puzzles.

Shapiro definitely has the potential to do far better work, and his dynamic stage presence should not go to waste. I would be interested in watching him again, but without the nonsensical script.


Olivia Edwards

at 15:02 on 17th Aug 2011



Roni Sinai’s new piece about a man who is partially mouse, partially devilishly handsome, partially Jack Rosenfeld is the dramatic equivalent of the storytelling game in which each participant contributes one word to the tale, producing an incongruous, disjointed narrative that is impossible to follow let alone discern any deeper meaning. Inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Sinai’s one-man play tells the story of Jack Rosenfeld – the Gregor of Partially Mouse – whose joblessness induces his wife Jeanette to constantly nag him about their lack of ‘M-O-N-E-Y’ as Rosenfeld calls it. Rosenfeld explains to his audience that the word ‘money’ takes on a transformative power: he starts to shrink a little bit every time Jeanette says the word until he is completely transformed into a mouse. From here things progress from absurd to just plain odd: an Argentinian midget calling herself Rita the Life coach appears to bolster Rosenfeld’s self confidence; Rosenfeld discovers he can shift-shape according to his level of self-esteem; and Jeanette Rosenfeld has bizarre body issues of her own.

One of the major difficulties I had with Partially Mouse was the venue itself. The Crypt in the basement of the Jekyll & Hyde pub has a small raised stage area in a corner of the room that faces a large curved bar in the opposite corner. This small stage space is enclosed by large wooden banisters on all sides apart from an opening directly in front of the bar. Seats for audience members are placed either side of the bar, which meant that not a single member of the audience had a clear view of the stage. Thankfully director Roni Sinai used space cleverly, using the bar top as a cinema step, innovatively using a metal frame as both a doorway and a pin-board, and ensuring his performer stood at the open part of the stage and addressed audience members to his left and right. Daniel Shapiro as Jack Rosenfeld recounting his bizarre experiences did well to sustain the audience’s attention for the duration of the show. There was something of Woody Allen in Shapiro’s characterisation of Jack Rosenfeld, with the entire performance an emphatic address to the audience. Shapiro was much stronger in the first half of the play, deftly handling the transition from the every-day to the absurd but, as the play became weirder, Shapiro’s Rosenfeld became slightly too strange with it. The belly dance he treats the audience to towards the end of the play is extremely difficult to watch. One final element of the production that niggled was the frequent use of music to evoke a snake or a moment of crisis was more intrusive than complimentary and made the performance seem faintly cartoonish. In fact, the production as a whole was more than slightly cartoonish. This ‘cartoonishness’ would do much to explain the show’s flyer (a circular shape containing Shapiro’s head and shoulders against a background of velvet curtains) and the illustrations Rosenfeld proffers as ‘evidence’ that he was a mouse and the portrait of good old Rita the life coach. If Sinai was aiming to evoke the cartoon genre in his piece, it will have come across much more strongly to make any impression on his audience.

Unfortunately this play was just far too mad for me and for the three audience members who walked out half way through. Personal taste aside, the most frustrating thing was that the play seemed to be an accumulation of strange event upon stranger event without transmitting and larger more profound message for audience members to take away. Partially Mouse is utterly baffling.


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