The Man with a Flower in His Mouth

Luigi Pirandello in a new adaptation by Poppy Burton-Morgan
Metta Theatre is Association with Greenwich Theatre
The London Particular, 399 New Cross Road
(2010)

The Man with a Flower in His Mouth production photo

As the first piece of television drama ever to be produced in Britain The Man with the Flower in His Mouth has an interesting pedigree. Its creator Luigi Pirandello won a Nobel Prize for Literature and although he actually wrote over 40 plays and hundreds of short stories he is perhaps best known in this country for Six Characters in Search of an Author. Seen by some as a forerunner to the theatre of the absurd, his plays relish the duplicitous nature of language and the line between fantasy and reality.

Poppy Burton-Morgan's adaptation switches the sex of the character of The Traveller to female and that of The Watcher to male, which I imagine changes the dynamic of the piece drastically. However, the meeting between shy retiring female and hyperactive male works well as an intriguing hour of drama.

Having missed the last train The Traveller sits alone with a book and a coffee concerned by the petty problems of shopping parcels and how to spend the rest of the evening waiting. The Man with the Flower in His Mouth enters and decides to befriend her, whether she wishes to share in his conversation or not. His problems are not petty and feeling 'death upon his back', he clings to his imagination and his awe of life through a mixture of philosophy and rambling. The meeting between the two tests perceptions and reality and questions the joys of living.

Samuel Collings' performance as The Man is engaging, offering moments of sincerity and seriousness with a healthy dose of physical humour. There is a manic undertone not dissimilar to David Tennant's Dr Who and, whilst his behaviour is odd, he does not appear threatening or malicious. Liana Weafer creates a quiet and bemused tone as The Traveller which whilst contrasts well with Collings, but is at times in danger of being too subtle, given the nature of the strange meeting and the dependency of the pace upon the two speaking characters.

Set in an actual café, the realism of the location contrasts with the imaginative and lyrical nature of The Man with the Flower in His Mouth's speeches and perhaps this is the point. With the seating at the far end of the café the audience can see the natural scenery of the busy New Cross Road with passers by staring through the windows, the occasional police siren and a few yapping dogs on their evening walk. It is against this cold and tireless backdrop that the characters seek refuge, although at times it is easy for the attention to drift away from the piece and focus on the nosy and noisy public outside.

There is much to enjoy in the performances and the staging and yet an hour feels a little too long. Beautifully poetic and definitely eccentric, this is a production which is both surreal and realistic and I think it will be a matter of individual taste as to whether this juxtaposes well or simply jars.

Running to 5th December

Reviewer: Amy Yorston