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A Hero's Journey

By Steve Jordan and Patrick Baker
ManMoth Productions
Etcetera Theatre
(2011)

The Hero's Journey is the name given by the American scholar Joseph Campbell to the pattern of the narrative of the typical adventure of the archetypical hero of all kinds of story, a concept that would-be wordsmith Matthew Rain (Richard Jackson) is using as the basis for his creative writing evening class lectures (helped by Campbell's text on his mobile as a crib) and the scenes in this play, receiving its premier at the Camden Fringe Festival, follow the stages that Campbell outlines.

Scenes in the creative writing class are followed by the equivalent stage in Matthew's own journey as writer from rejection by the agent (Sally Preston) with whom his more successful flat mate Daniel (Nick Skaugen) is having an affair, the success of one of his students as a playwright (pinching the plot from another student's contribution) and through it all the support/interference of Dr Who in his Peter Davidson form (Cliff Chapman) who is a figment of his own imagination.

Despite encouraging laugher from enthusiastic supporters for some of the earlier scenes I found it remarkably unfunny, especially for something written by a pair who describe themselves as "comedy writers". It is not helped by its succession of relatively short scenes which have little chance to establish any atmosphere and are interspersed by fadeouts and scene changes, though the directors they may intend these to be a sort of running gag with unnecessary rearrangements of chairs being given careful attention on each occasion.

"I become the adventure that breathes the word literature," declares Matthew and there could be some mileage in such a palpable incompetent and his bad ideas and some pathos in his desperate wish to be a writer but the jokes here are on the level that, when literary agent Kate rejects red wine with fish and asks if there is any white, her boyfriend pours out two glasses of milk. Comedy about failure isn't easy.

There is a feisty performance from Ellen Gallagher as a red-haired, red-shirted amateur tart working on a semi-autobiographical novel and a delightful one from Chapman as the phantom Dr Who but it was when the writers made one of their characters declare, "Surely people have something better to do than watch some over-priced play in a crappy little pub in Camden Town" that they got the best laugh of the evening.

"A Hero's Journey" runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 19th August 2011

Reviewer: Howard Loxton