How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

Mon 4th – Sat 16th August 2014


Tania Nicole Clarke

at 19:05 on 11th Aug 2014



UCLU Runaground deserve a lot of praise for what they have done with Fin Kennedy’s beautifully tragic play. When you’re as fond of Kennedy’s work as I am it can be extremely difficult to ever imagine the perfect staged production, but UCLU certainly don’t fall too short of providing us with this.

The production is slick, fast-paced and clever, with semi-stylised, caricatured characters contrasted against the naturalistic performance of Karan Gill, who plays the hopeless Charlie, the play’s male protagonist. The play revolves around the twenty-nine year old who has begun to plummet into a horrific state of depression following the death of his mother. He shares with us snippets of nostalgia, and thinks of simpler times when he would eat Hula Hoops off his fingers.

Gill delivers a strong performance, he has the audience fully engaged throughout and we are captivated by his intense physicalisation and his painful wringing behind the eyes, not to mention his rich vocal treatment of Kennedy’s floral dialogue. Gill verbally staggers over Kennedy’s poetic language, stuttering and stammering his way through endless monologues as Charlie desperately attempts to describe how “everything you see is just a thin surface”.

Gill is not the only stand-out individual performer in this production; the entire cast gel together as a tight ensemble, constantly bouncing off one another and mixing it up with outstanding multi-role play throughout. Particular credit goes to the performance of Will Jacobs, whose acting ability is incredibly diverse. He keeps us entertained during his short bursts of frantically bold, humorous characters, alongside the delightful Rachel Jones, who is always fully committed to her characters and is a pleasure to watch on stage.

The production aesthetics are fairly minimalistic, and the company certainly don’t rely on any unnecessary props; the performance is held together purely by the quality standard of the acting. Performed on a thrust stage, the Monkey House’s quirky studio space is well-suited to the sparse performance style. With only eight white wooden blocks as their set, the ensemble manoeuvre these around the stage swiftly, creating the various physical and psychological spaces occupied by Charlie. The costumes are used effectively too, and effortlessly create the wishy-washy, depressive world Kennedy’s play requires, with grey-scale, monochrome garments and only a few flashes of real colour.

The only criticism I might have about the production is its attempt at doing something different with the overall performance experience. As the audience enter the studio we are provided with small pieces of paper which are placed on each chair: these document random accounts of death. The pathologist (Sophie) is also seated on the front row among the audience members throughout, hopping on and off stage for her scenes. These directorial decisions are certainly thought-provoking and interesting, but perhaps would be more effective if they were somehow woven more explicitly between the audience and the action on stage. Given that these decisions were not fully explored, they felt slightly weak and failed to do anything spectacular in attempting to break the forth wall.

The final image of Gill, lying in the arms of Sophie, played by Annie Hawkins, is heart-breaking, and the pair strike a special, electric dynamic together. The play illustrates how it’s all too easy to shed your skin and rebuild a new identity, and is certainly worth a watch.


Alex Woolley

at 09:28 on 12th Aug 2014



“Do you feel like everything’s fake? Like this pub – it looks old, but it wasn’t here last year?” advertising executive Charlie Hunt, played by Karan Gill, asks a colleague in the early stages of this play. Statements such as these are at the thematic core of How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found, a surreal and frightening play in which Hunt, in fear of his creditors, decides to lose his old identity and take on a new one.

UCL Union Runaground, the company behind this production of Fin Kennedy’s play, brings almost tangible energy to the stage. Karan Gill, as the role of Charlie Hunt demands, is especially notable. His monologue immediately before his coke-riddled, caffeine-addled, sleep-deprived body collapses on him is hard to enjoy, exactly – tales of cocaine snorted with an accompaniment of urine are always tough just before lunch – but it is certainly captivating. The simple buzzing sound effect that is used alongside this monologue is very effective, too.

Howard Horner, as Mike, who guides Hunt as to how to take on a new identity, is similarly impressive; he comes across as a surreal and sinister version of Only Fools and Horses’s Del Boy, which works excellently in the strange world of this play. Gill and Horner also do a good job of bringing out the tenderness between their two characters, a welcome contrast from the mania of much else in the show.

There are only two important faults with UCLU’s How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found. One is that too much of the show feels as if it has been blocked for a proscenium stage, whereas the venue in ZOO is a thrust stage. It seems particularly bizarre in the party scene that all the characters, at this point conspicuously drunk, stand in a neat line at the back.

The other major problem, which is no fault of UCLU, is that the script loses a lot of momentum two thirds of the way through. The audience is initially captivated by Hunt’s week-long bender; the focus then moves on to his quest to re-identify himself.From that point, we are presented with a series of quite interesting scenes, but ones that hardly give a sense that they are building up to something. It is perhaps a shame that Kenney did not write something a bit shorter.

This production of How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found is an impressive one. Great credit must go to UCLU Runaground for making such a surreal script into something suitably human. They have set the bar high for other student shows at the Fringe.


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