EFR - Reviews of Ozymandias

Ozymandias

Fri 7th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Flo Layer

at 10:01 on 16th Aug 2015

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Though this piece opens with a terribly sincere recital of Percy Shelley’s Ozmandias by a half-naked solo actor, it quickly descends into a strange and absurd realm of meta-narrative as performer Hugh Train explores the difficulties and clichés of Fringe performance, fame, success and privilege of the contemporary audience.

Raving Mask Theatre promotes itself as a specialist in absurdist and contemporary theatre – and Ozymandias certainly was absurd. Right at the beginning we are told to “expect pretention”, as Ozymandias the King of kings or perhaps better known as the Pharoah Rameses II analyses the self-congratulatory element of entertainment at the Fringe – the “masturbatory” sense of achievement when, as an audience member, you manage to experience that “tingly feeling” when watching a play.

This is a clever show delivered by a confident performer. Train delivers his monologue as the King of Kings with a suitable sense of arrogance and an (admittedly slight irritating) affected accent, holding pauses for just long enough for comic effect.

This confident approach extended to his direct contact with the audience, which meant that interactions never felt awkward (at least on his half). He is a performer who clearly has absolutely no qualms when confronting the audience up-close and personal. He interacted with almost every member, strolling among the seats in a calm and confident manner.

There were clearly had a few friends in the audience during the performance, which helped to dissipate any sense of an awkward atmosphere before and during the show. Yet it did mean that a handful of the supposedly humorous moment received an overly raucous response that the material didn’t really merit.

Saying that, the use of contemporary reference combined with an insistence on the Pharoah’s legend kept the piece on its feet: from a strained rendition of ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ to a screaming despair at the god-like status of Gary Barlow.

Ozymandias is an odd and self-depreciating narrative of success and failure at the Fringe. It’s certainly clever and I appreciated this new approach to a Fringe performance but essentially it just wasn't incredibly enjoyable. Maybe I am too invested in getting that ‘tingly’ feeling by watching a show that hides behind its own pretensions, but when there are thousands of shows at the Fringe, isn't that exactly what you want?

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Bethan Roberts

at 12:38 on 16th Aug 2015

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The opening to Raving Masks’ one man show might lead you to expect the worst. The “mysterious vibes” emanating from Hugh Train’s Ozymandias in all his milk-drinking, mirror-watching, Shelley-reciting glory seem initially to embody the very pinnacle of Edinburgh Fringe pretentiousness.

Fortunately, this is all a conscious act on the part of everyone’s fave (hmm?) Egyptian ruler. As Ozymandias observes, from his stage in one of the more bizarre Fringe venues: “What’s the point of a powerful welcome when you’re in a jumped-up fucking Travelodge?” Ozymandias, as part motivational speaker, part meditator on his own godlike status, is a character who provokes more laughs than a stand-up comedian (in part thanks to the uncomfortable atmosphere which arises whenever he tries to “get rid of the tension in the room”) whilst also provoking some interesting questions, and not just when he invites (forces) the audience to participate in feeding his panicked narcissism.

Reputation and relevance to others are themes our lead character is the perfect vessel for, given that thanks to Percy Shelley’s sonnet these days Ozymandias is remembered almost exclusively as the projection of a name, of a reputation, to which nothing tangible is any longer attached. Having been given immortality from a poem ironically written to emphasise transience, Train’s Ozymandias will literally die if people stop paying attention to him, embodying in its most extreme form the need of the famous to remain relevant at all costs.

There’s quite a lot of audience participation in this show, ranging from agreeing with Ozymandias, answering specific questions, or being singled out to make a more personal contribution (occasionally and optionally in monetary form). Although any degree of involvement in a show is too much for some, this is ultimately one of the more benign incarnations of the trope, given that the joke is always firmly on Ozymandias rather than his captive (and captive really is the word) audience.

The show has a lot of interesting things to say about the Fringe and about the idea of celebrity whilst never taking itself too seriously. Ozymandias at times feels a little unstructured - the show, not the man (well, actually…) – but it’s gloriously uncomfortable and hilarious, whilst still giving its audience a lot to think about. Go and see it – his survival depends on your attentiveness!

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