The Noctambulist

Tue 5th – Sun 17th August 2014

reviews

Catherine Edwards

at 09:59 on 15th Aug 2014

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The Noctambulist introduces us to Al (Alexander Drury), a young man who is part-layabout, part-creative visionary, and spends his days doing nothing but leeching off the hospitality of his increasingly impatient friends. Drury has a wonderfully expressive face and imbues the character with infuriating charm. He is animated, almost crazed, as he describes his hope of changing the world through his alter-ego - 'The Noctambulist'.

It's an intriguing premise, and a unique take on the classic 'nightmare flatmate' scenario. Joe Skelton's thoughtful writing and direction demonstrats impressive professionalism for a student production – indeed, by any standards, this is a very good play. Skelton's sharp eye for observation means the script manages to be both surreal and realistic at the same time.

The cast does a superb job at presenting their larger-than-life characters in a believable manner, and with commendable diction and timing. Lily Morgan and Theo Harrison brilliantly capture the frustration of Al's friends Sarah and Brian, who would like to support his crazy ideas but wish he could do it somewhere other than on their spare bed. Theo Harrison gives depth to the character of Brian, who is fed up of making excuses for his friend, and has the rare skill of letting the audience know exactly what he is thinking with one look or slight movement. The beauty is that you can relate to both sides; we are rooting for Al, but we wouldn't want to live with him either.

The awkward early phases of a potential romance are cleverly portrayed, though I do wonder what Al sees in slightly bland fruit-and-veg-girl Franny. Hebe Beardsall's acting talents are let down by her character, who makes an unconvincing catalyst for Al to turn his life around. She's an idealist who plans to go to India to 'help people', but hasn't quite figured out how. It isn't clear if her one-dimensional nature was meant as a parody of earnest but clueless volunteers, or if her characterisation just lacked development, but it seems more like the latter.

In some areas, the plot could do with more substance. The plot touches on the question of how to have a meaningful impact on the world – the motif of sleepwalking for a mundane existence is a good one – but doesn't get very far in its exploration of these ideas. This makes the play an easy watch which doesn't require any soul-searching, but prevents it from being truly outstanding. However, it remains a highly original and enjoyable naturalist drama with a talented cast and crew.

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Ben Horton

at 10:01 on 15th Aug 2014

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“You know I can do great things, I just need time!” Such infuriating sentiments are frequently uttered by Albert (played by Alexander Drury), the main character of Raving Mask Theatre’s absurd and wonderful new play The Noctambulist. This production puts a perennial student problem - what to do with our lives after education has ended - at the heart of a surreal and often humorous tale of frustrated friendships and fruit.

Writer and director Joe Skelton describes Albert as “both a layabout and a visionary” and Drury certainly brings out this split personality in a flamboyant performance which shifts between boastful grandstanding in front of his school friend Brian (Theo Harrison) and awkward fumbling conversation with the fruit seller Franny (Hebe Beardsall).

As a freelance writer, artist, and cartoonist Albert is introduced as an eternal optimist who lacks the application to make anything of his talents. Harrison gives a convincingly weary and cynical performance as Brian who is caught in the crossfire of hair-raising arguments between his best mate Albert and his formidable girlfriend Sarah (Lily Morgan). The latter is especially impressive as she berates her layabout house guest for not getting a proper job, or even going on Jobseekers Allowance. Albert’s insistence that he doesn’t need to only serves to infuriate her more, and her ranting is definitely one of the highlights of the show.

Franny sympathises with Albert’s position to the chagrin of his housemates. She too seems to wander happily but vaguely through life, holding down a job as a fruit delivery girl only until she travels to India. Her own way her lack of direction is as infuriatingly enviable as Albert’s, and something that Brian and Sarah cannot cope with.

The final scenes of the show are somewhat frantic, involving a homemade smoke grenade, a slightly inept fight and lots of shouting. Although the play turns out to be an hour of arguments, the chemistry between the cast members keeps the audience gripped throughout, whilst dryly witty asides from Brian lighten what otherwise might be quite a dark tone. All in all thoroughly enjoyable and quite silly.

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