Monday 15 August 2011

The untamed mischief of Mann

The Perils of Love and Gravity, Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

If ever a show needed to pick a side, it’s this confused offering from Michael Keane and Christopher Brett Bailey. Not only does it flick between cutesy storytelling and anarchic spoof, the one totally undoing the other, its restless plot can’t decide on a central narrative. It’s like a schizophrenic with acute attention deficit disorder.

Misha lives in a house wider at the top than the bottom that starts to sink. From there she writes letters to her absent mother, draws maps of a world she’s never seen and courts a string of suitors, all of whom meet untimely deaths in substantial subplots. Then the narrator gets involved, closely followed by his assistant and her doting manservant, Graeme (Phil Mann).

Imagine if Cinderella, while trying to get the ball, fell asleep for a thousand years, her hair growing out of the window to form a ladder, while her mother gets shot by huntsmen and her father trampled by stampeding gazelle. To borrow the play’s architectural concern, The Perils of Love and Gravity is missing a supporting beam. Beyond that it’s haphazardly staged and cumbersomely overwritten, never leaving a noun without an adjective, sometimes to the point of extreme bloating: ‘a soft, sweet, sensitve song’, anyone?

And yet, in spite of all these frustrations, it’s not unenjoyable. While Keane and Brett Bailey provide the odd cracking line, it’s largely due to the untamed mischief of Mann. If he’s a touch hammy, he also manages to be creepy, unpredictable and rampantly chaotic, at one point charging across the stage, spade in hand, to illustrate an irrigation system literally. All of which goes to show that every Mann is the architect of his own fortune.


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