Review of Will Adamsdale’s ‘Victorian in the Wall’

I don’t usually do this. No, not blogging you fool, I mean publishing the reviews I write for the Offies. Not because I am ashamed of them particularly but because they are a bit speccy and I’m not sure anyone but me is all that interested in what the lighting was like. These reviews, nee reports, are not really designed for public entertainments. But occasionally I see something which just tips me over into the need to tell people about it. To encourage people to take part. And this is one of them.

“Will Adamsdale’s latest show is somewhere between elemental storytelling and a religious experience. I can’t even, hand-on-heart, tell you what it is; Theatre? Musical? Assisted Stand up? Whatever, it’s the most enjoyable mental pillaging I’ve ever had.

The premise is very simple. Adamsdale’s Guy is struggling with modern urban living, a kamikaze career and a flailing relationship. He then discovers a Victorian in the wall. A genuine Victorian. Obviously.

What follows is an exquisite, surreal act of procrastination, intertwining thread of the lives of every character, in a rich, vibrant squishy melange.

In a brilliant piece of writing by Adamsdale, with contribution from the ensemble, there’s not one loose end, not one call-back missed. Seemingly incidental events and characters (a head torch, an annoying neighbour, a rather unhelpful refrigerator) all fall into place as Guy’s tale seamlessly unfolds. In Will Adamsdale’s assured hands, what could’ve been a rather self indulgent exploration of middle-class, first-world problems, and turns into manifesto on self-determination through action. In other words, to quote George Elliot via Adamsdale, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been…”

At the heart of the production lies the powerful ensemble, dragging the audience kicking and screaming into this strange little fiction. This revolting bunch not only plays every character are is the lighting, sound, props, set and the music. They sing, beat, bang, scrape, tape, impersonate, emote, dance and drum through nearly an hour and a half material. In what could easily be a series of randomly accumulated comedy skits on the tribulations of the metro urbanite (SPOILER Alert: my favourite being when the Crisis Charity adopt-a-child actually arrives on the doorstep or should the be ‘stoop’?), remain coherent by simply nesting around an old fashioned boy-and-girl story. And best of all, the entire cast look like they are having the time of their lives.

The other extraordinary aspect of this production is the soundscape. As you walk in, the eye is drawn towards what looks like an old fashioned radio sound table.  A piano, complete with mixing desk. Tantalising glimpses of loop pedals and hidden mics. Once the worrying hip-pop soundtrack comes down, magic happens. Every piece of detritus on set has a raison d’être: and that ‘raison’ is to make noise. The atmospherics of trendy London spring to life in vivid Technicolor. Walls tumble down; complete with a rain of plaster dust, with just a bucket, a hand full of grit and some sticky tape. The ensemble bring to life radio and TV programmes, including ‘The Wire’ much to my delight, using amplified baked bean tins and paper cups. Mobile phone rings tone from the piano. The prose, and the poetry, of the script ride on looped beats and junkyard riffs, all created live on stage with suitcases and boxes. Combining a charming score and whimsical musical interludes, by way of Pink Floyd and old time music hall, the soundscape means the play constantly crackles and fizzes with life, making the dénouement all the more shocking when it finally crashes down around Guy’s ringing ears.

The production may be called ‘The Victorian on the Wall’ and it may be set at the fusty establishment of the Royal Court Theatre, but there is nothing institutionalised or antiquated about it. It’s a blast of cold, clean air that brings down the walls to expose the bare-boned wonder of live storytelling at its best.

Verdict: must-see. I fully advocate killing, if it means you can get hold if a ticket.”

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