Wingman by Richard Marsh

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Henry Holmes

at 23:03 on 4th Aug 2014

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Performance poetry is a genre that’s recently gained in prominence, so obviously there’s a fine selection of it here in Edinburgh. In Wingman we see it married with drama in a minimalist standup-esque piece about family - specifically parenthood. Richard Marsh, a poetry slam champion, and Jerome Wright, play Richard Marsh and his father Len Marsh. Richard’s inner thoughts are represented by Marsh’s poetry, which strikes exactly the right balance between free-flowing and well-formed.

Having been estranged for years after leaving Richard’s mother, Len arrives to interact with him after her death. After an argument at the funeral and unexpected news of Richard’s own impending fatherhood, we see a maelstrom of prosody, self-doubt and babies.

In two-man shows, one of the most important factors of success is the chemistry between the two actors, which in this show was very effective throughout: the pair looked similar enough that they might even have been father and son. There was a fairly prominent character in the form of the mother of Richard’s baby who was portrayed entirely by Marsh. She was suitably distinguished by her strong Welsh accent, which did mean there was no confusion of the characters but it seemed slightly odd that she was depersonalised in this way. Admittedly she served to draw the focus upon the father and son relationship, but only in a slightly jarring way.

Unfortunately, after what was a very strong start, the show’s pacing started to fumble around two thirds of the way in, as the total simplicity of the set (two chairs and a black background and no props) started to feel a bit lacking. The ending of the show headed towards what was expected and, while the last scene was poignant and drew to a satisfying conclusion, there was a disappointing dip in the middle.

This being said, the show successfully carried out everything that it intended to. The poetry added a sincerity to the performance and the relationship between Richard and Len and the supporting characters around them was heartfelt and believable. It gave a very effective look into the realities of modern parenting and the unusual circumstances that crop up.

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Xavier Greenwood

at 02:38 on 5th Aug 2014

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Written with levity and gravity in equal measure, ‘Wingman’ is a comedy-drama whose beautifully wrought narration sets it apart from other plays of its ilk. Richard (Richard Marsh) and Len (Jerome Wright) are a father and son, who – after 20 years apart – find their lives unexpectedly re-joined by the fight between Richard’s dying mother and ‘The Bastard’. Though not without its flaws, ‘Wingman’ is a poignant evocation of love and loss, forgiveness and growth.

As the house lights dim, Richard begins to describe his mother. With graceful lyricism, he begins a narration which he sustains throughout the play. The form is utilised to full effect to forge lines of the utmost pathos; the timing of “all that is clean in me dies” was almost exquisitely agonizing.

Whilst the narration performs a primary function of allowing the audience access to Richard’s thoughts when he is, as he says himself, “emotionally and physically lost”, it is also used as a practical aid to the audience, since there are neither physical props nor actual costume changes.Though visual simplicity is always welcomed in a show focused on interpersonal dynamics, the need to explicate changes in scene through the narration often slows the momentum of the play.The fact that Richard’s narrative role eliminates the need for a third actor – Richard Marsh also voiced Bridgitte – is valuable, in that it allows the focus to be entirely fixed on the response of Richard and Len to premature death and burgeoning life.

The actors are convincing in their roles, and emotionally committed to the painful vicissitudes of the Marsh family dynamic which defies the nuclear ideal. The actors evoke the conflict and pain which such domestic complexities can cause without feeling the temptation to overact for the sake of drama, and rarely losing sincerity. This is all not to mention the script’s witticisms, which – whilst never raucously funny – are an enduring but unobtrusive presence, never blunting the emotional power of the performance.

‘Wingman’ is at once multifaceted and simple, humorous and profound; a cleverly composed portrayal of the undulations of a family through breakdown and restoration.

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