EFR - Reviews of According To His Need

According To His Need

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Tom Gellatly

at 23:54 on 9th Aug 2014

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In According to His Need, Michael-David Mckernan and Hannah Mamalis star as the young, politically-minded Nick and Cass. The former is a disillusioned, loveless nobody who plunges into the world of socialism so that he has something to talk to women about. The latter is a well-versed member of the Communist Party, and as the two begin their whirlwind romance they run into problems when their political and personal views collide.

In According to His Needs is, as a one-set, two actor effort, going to be a play that lives and dies by the performances of its leads, and luckily McKernan and Mamalis are more than up to the task. McKernan delivers a finely nuanced rendition as the deceptively profound, soul-searching ‘permanent bachelor,’ as he calls himself, who is earnestly trying to learn more about Marxism and is clearly overwhelmed by his feelings for Cass. Mamalis, too, is a great lead, and has a hilariously deadpan delivery throughout, which perfectly complements her almost robotically professional approach to both love and communism.

The play is a surprisingly comedic one, and the intense political discussions and heartbreaking moments of romance are happily punctuated by some seriously great one-liners. The two leads could happily take up roles as comic actors if In According to His Need doesn’t take off, as their expressions and timing mean that the show could be funny, even without the pithy dialogue that accompanies the more physical side of their comedy.

The political aspects of the play are surprisingly fleshed out at sporadic moments, with some lengthy meditations on what socialism means for art, in terms of its purpose past sheer hedonism. The only slight problem with these sections is that they feel somewhat shoehorned in; the play is certainly steeped in political discussion and socialism on a superficial narrative level, but these subjects are never really addressed directly except for the odd diatribe, which doesn't quite serve to integrate the political side of the play into the production as a whole as well as the romantic portions fit in.

Overall, though, In According to His Need is an assured, intelligent little play which manages to combine the unlikely pairing of the traditional love story and political discussions into one strange but bewitching symbiotic whole. The two leads are consistently excellent throughout, and the play as a whole is satisfyingly well-rounded, replete with a perfectly bittersweet ending. Highly recommended.

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Claire Murgatroyd

at 01:29 on 10th Aug 2014

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Oliver Eagleton’s ‘According to his Need’ is, in effect, the type of romantic comedy an audience would expect to find in mediocre Hollywood blockbusters, only much more skilfully brought to life on the stage. Cass, (Hannah Mamalis) is a staunch, joyless socialist made weak at the knees by the bumbling, sex-driven Nick (Michael-David McKernan); while he is often more turned on by her politics than her body.

What could be a fundamentally simple tale of boy-meets-girl, however, is made immensely more engaging by the additions of witty repartee between the two lovers, and the frequent insertion of strong Marxist politics. While the political observations and left-wing views are so intellectual that they occasionally pass over the audience's heads, the more understandable parts serve truly to enhance this piece. They add a philosophical dimension and thereby prevent it from becoming more than just a sappy love story.

McKernan shines, making the audience love him, despite Nick’s inherent uselessness and libidinal motivation, while Mamalis brings a great deal of comedy to the often stereotypical role of the cold-hearted workaholic. While individually both endearing and hilarious, the true genius happens at any moment the pair are together. A fairly long sex scene, for example, in which the pair’s discussion of increasing Marxist influence in Capitalist society coincides with how aroused they are becoming (don’t ask), is both fully convincing, and in no way awkward.

However, while both the acting and the writing of this piece are very strong indeed, the real genius can be found in Nora Kelly-Lester’s direction. Any production performed in the round is necessarily difficult to direct and make successful. However, According to His Need never struggles with the typical logistical difficulties of poor acoustics and awkward body positioning, which other plays with similar staging face. In fact, in a particularly impressive scene in which the characters of Nick and Cass report their own versions of their first sexual encounter, the actors rotate around each other so seamlessly that the audience hardly bats an eye, instead mesmerised by their unity and dialogue. Directing a piece with only two actors in such a challenging space – balancing deliberate distances and eye-watering closeness – is very rarely done with such style.

Both on and off stage, the cast and crew's genuine appreciation and enthusiasm for theatre is clear, and shines through in this performance. This delightful, yet highly stylised piece really represents so much of what makes the Fringe so exciting.

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