Those People My Parents

Thu 9th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Lettice Franklin

at 09:11 on 11th Aug 2012

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Chris Matagros takes on many of roles in 'Those People My Parents'. Not only does he play eight different characters, he also wrote the show. While the first eight of these roles deserve praise, Matagros should have let his desire to fill every space stop there. His writing lets down his acting and, regrettably, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it even if Sir Laurence Olivier had been performing it.

The play begins with its teenage protagonist exclaiming, “I hate getting out of bed”, and goes on in the same vein of hackneyed cliches about teenagers. Matagros is one of the first five students on the new MA in Theatre for Young Audiences which Rose Bruford College is running with Unicorn Theatre and you have to wonder whether this consists entirely of learning that young audiences consist of people full of anger, who always mow lawns, smoke pot at parties, and do little else of interest.

It is unclear whether this show is particularly aimed at young audiences and, if so, what exactly “young” means. My fellow spectators certainly did not fall within that descriptor. Without giving the plot away, there are certainly moments which aim to appeal and it is possible that teenagers would see in the petulant hero a soulmate who finally understands them, but the tone veers dangerously close to patronizing.

To give the writing some credit, it has moments of wit. At its best there are flashes of Adrian Mole or Holden Caulfield. I laughed out loud at the protagonist, Michael’s, realization that the term “little squirt” for child has disgusting connotations. In addition, there is some poignancy; Michael, an only child, seems in his desperation to talk solidly, with all the other characters coming within a framework of his speech, to betray a need for companionship and someone to listen to, which is perhaps the most complicated and emotional side of adolescence evoked by the show.

Matagros’ acting is impressive. The eight characters are largely distinct. Clever tricks work well; both the mum and the dad are distinguished by characteristic gestures to take the pressure off the dexterity of Matagros’ vocal cords. He maintains energy throughout the performance, whilst whizzing across the stage between character to character.

That one’s parents have rung you while you are high is quite a boring anecdote when recounted by a friend the morning after a big night - it is hard to justify asking people to pay to hear it. Matagros is able to impress as an actor even with such weak material but only just.

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James Fennemore

at 09:58 on 11th Aug 2012

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I’ve seen a number of productions this Fringe that attempt to portray an impression of adolescence. This in itself is a worrying signal that Chris Matragos’ one-man show lacks originality or interest. It was a concern that wasn’t to be proved wrong.

It baffles me how anyone can think that this type of hackneyed cliché-peddling could possibly make for a good theatrical performance, or even engage its audience without patronising them into resigned submission. It strikes me that Matragos must have decided to do a Fringe show, cast his mind around for some inspiration, and, when the muse failed to strike, plumped for that old ‘aren’t parents annoying?’ chestnut.

And so his unfortunate audience is presented with such exciting tales as Matragos being forced to mow the lawn, tidy his room, persuade his mother to allow him out to see his friends, and other stultifying banal pleasures. The writing is as corny and unexciting as the subject matter, and manages to make an already humdrum show even more predictable.

The range of characters which Matragos presents to us could have been a redeeming element of interest in the show, as Matragos is, at least, a confident performer. Unfortunately, they are reduced to trite caricature, from the uninterested Dad who complains that he can’t eat his newly-purchased Blackberry to the pushy cop, who invades the teenagers’ elicit party. The only moment of surprise in the piece comes via the voice of Matragos’s mother, who sounds disarmingly like Al Pacino.

I despair that Matragos didn’t recognise the weakness of the idea of this show before allowing it ever to come to fruition. The festival does not need another depiction of teenage-dom to add to its ever-increasing stockpile. What truly eludes me is how anyone who has actually lived to be old enough to write a reflective piece about their near history could not realise how mundane and inaccurate these representations really are.

‘Those People My Parents’ manages to reach post-cliché levels of tedium. Unless you’ve been raised by a benevolent family of wolves, grown up in a sound-proof cell, or been subject to some other form of cultural isolation, I shouldn’t bother going. You’ll have heard it all before.

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