The Lonely Poet (or: The Pleonasm)

Thu 6th – Sun 23rd August 2015

reviews

Flo Layer

at 01:40 on 14th Aug 2015

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It’s not often that you leave a show in complete and utter stunned silence. Unfortunately, for Tim Honnef (writer and performer of The Lonely Poet) I can’t attribute this reaction to a sense of awe and wonder but more to utter disbelief and confusion. I left the venue not knowing quite how to react, and even a few hours later I felt just as bemused at how strange and frightening Honnef’s performance had been.

Honnef presented himself as Jonas Müller, a tortured poet, neglected by his parents, ostracised, bullied at school and locked away in a basement by his Grandfather. This ‘lonely poet’ has some anger issues, switching between a calm and collected delivery of poetry and sudden angry outbursts.

This one-man show was interspersed with poems read aloud from a red notebook. These were certainly not the samples of poetic genius that you might have longed to hear from a show promisingly titled The Lonely Poet; instead we were treated to (self-acknowledged) disjointed pieces about broken condoms and birth announcements.

Despite the general confusion of Honnef/Muller’s unpredictable behaviour, the narrative at least followed a fairly coherent arc; the opening voice-over that announces the demolition of Muller’s house connected the past with the present at the close of the piece.

Honnef had a genuinely frightening countenance, his eyes widening to match the scary pop-art stare from David Bowie on the front of his t-shirt as he delivered his disturbing tale about neglect and failure. Unfortunately, all this intensity was directed towards my fellow reviewer – picked out as his victim from the small audience at the very start of the show. From the beginning his wide eyes fixed on hers, equally huge with apprehension and fear. “You’re feeling tense, I can tell” was probably one of Honnef’s more astute observations during the piece, yet a feeling that I am pretty sure was shared by every member of the crowd. Audience interaction is at worse painful and cringe-worthy and at best faintly humorous, but here it felt downright exploitative.

The Lonely Poet should certainly be considered original, but for just under an hour I felt extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps that was its intention but when there are so many wonderful and clever shows at the fringe, why spend time and money on a show that is bound to leave you feeling apprehensive and bewildered?

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Katie Heath-Whyte

at 12:11 on 14th Aug 2015

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It is difficult to describe exactly how The Lonely Poet left me feeling. Adjectives such as ‘uncomfortable’, ‘confused’ and ‘shaken’ come to mind, and not in a particularly good way. Tim Honnef’s ‘almost’ one-man show is an unusual experience in an intimate venue. A mix of storytelling and poetry drifts along an unstable line between the real and the fictional as Jonas, Honnef’s zany and disturbed on-stage persona, unravels his past through an intense monologue. The audience is quickly involved as he struggles to understand his purpose in life and the poetry of his deceased grandfather, in whose basement he has been living for the last seven years.

In theory and concept, Honnef’s show is interesting and has potential. Unfortunately, the often baffling performance and shaky narrative results in an awkward and unfulfilling production. I turned out to be the lucky audience member chosen by Jonas to be ‘interacted’ with throughout. The show relied heavily on this audience participation, Jonas directing most of his speech directly to me, yet the other audience members seemed to share in my discomfort as I was involved in increasingly bizarre exchanges. Though the reason for my singling out was later revealed, the final revelation did little to ease the dominant feeling of awkwardness, lacking the required punch and instead falling into predictability.

At times, Hoffen’s performance worked – the soundtrack was well chosen, and added intensity to certain moments of poetry. Timothy Doesburg’s cameo was a welcome relief from Honnef’s persona, providing beautiful vocals to a dreamlike accordion accompaniment. Indeed, the claustrophobia of the venue was perfect for Jonas’ story, achieving its presumably desired effect – I was genuinely worried by the unstable Jonas and his troubled character, and for 55 minutes I, as his primary audience, was drawn in to the madness. Jonas’ story was well-conceived, but disappointed in its construction and delivery. The overwhelming atmosphere was one of awkwardness, as the realistic portrayal of Jonas owed less to remarkable acting than to a confusion about what exactly was going on. Although clearly a product of strong creativity, Honnef’s experiment unfortunately does not pay off.

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