The Boy Who Dropped An Egg On The World
Jack's Hard Rub
Joe H Makin Theatre, Liverpool
Now here's what I think happened: there's a cafe, somewhere in Iraq, and a mysterious, possibly other worldly maitre d' looks after his raggle taggle group of customers and a boy with a special gift. Into this cafe walks a UN inspector who is also mysterious and potentially other worldly and everyone talks a lot. Oh boy, do they talk a lot: great monolithic slabs of speech that devour the attention and leave the mind wandering while what little plot there is unfolds. Because, truth be told, not a lot really happens. And when the mysterious ghost woman wanders in to tell her long and bloody tales about death and bombs.. well, to be fair they are well delivered and affecting, but the effect is diluted by the fact that, in The Boy Who Dropped an Egg on the World, every member of the cast is delivering bloody long tales.
It is churlish to fix on the faults in the production; this is the company's first production. I'm given to understand that for many of them it's their first professional work apart from low level walk-on work and we should be fair: there is a lot of good in the production and tremendous potential. The acting is uniformly good, to the point where it would be unfair to single out performers, Zoran Blackie, Mike Sanders, and David Collins all handing in very strong, professional performances. There were gaps in basic stagecraft; Nick Osborn should have been taught not to apologise for line gaffes, which he did in his opening speech. He should also have been told not to shuffle his feet; Angela Millett's finely delivered opening monologue was delivered to the 'shuff-shuff' sound of Osborn's feet. Fortunately he eventually sat down. Unfortunately he did it at a particularly sensitive part of Millett's monologue, completely stealing focus. Osborn was one of the cast members who seemed to believe that it was necessary to 'react' during other actors' monologues. Speaking personally, when an actor has something to say I'd rather be watching them, not their colleague's eyebrows. A quick lesson in 'neutral' would benefit the production. It also seems bizarre that Blackie's UN Inspector describes himself as American, delivers a few words in an American accent, but then spends the rest of the play speaking in a British accent.
The technical production was.. improvable. Millett worked hard to deliver difficult material and delivered it well, so it's a mystery why she was left to deliver it in near darkness while a nearby table was lit to eye-watering brightness. Sound cues were late, leaving the cast reacting to explosions that didn't arrive for seconds, and the general lighting didn't cover the acting area, odd as the Joe H Makin is a tiny studio theatre and more than adequately equipped. The production has one more night in the Joe H Makin before touring, hopefully technical issues can be addressed. As, hopefully, can volume. I was sitting in the fourth row, no more than ten feet from the actors, and I was, at times, struggling to hear them.
But we're fixing on the faults. It's a brave production; at the moment Julian Bond's script is just too long but he and fellow director Mikyla Durkan have put together a strong ensemble cast and handed in a play that is far from bad and has the potential to be very good indeed. With the petty exception of a few bad habits, each actor is capable and believable but the whole thing needs a lot of work. The acting is good, although those bad habits really need jumping on. The writing is still at an early stage of development and I don't believe it should have gone to production yet, it needs clarifying and it badly needs cutting. The direction hasn't really focused and opened the play in a way that would bring it to the audience. And it needs at least some money spent on it. I found myself longing for a bit of costume, I know that native Iraqis wear jeans and t-shirts, but something to suggest locale would have been nice.
Jack's Hard Rub is a new company and currently shows more potential than accomplishment, and they can only improve. Most of the tour dates they're playing are charging no more than a fiver a ticket. If you see them then you'll be seeing a play that is, like the title, far too long and frankly rather muddled. But it'll cost you less than the price of a round and, assuming they have the sense to stay together and work together, you'll be able to tell all your friends that you saw them first.
"The Boy Who Dropped An Egg On The World" is currently on tour, tour dates are on their website
Reviewer: Ged Quayle