King's Head Theatre
Work often impacts on home life but, when the actor played by Joe Sellman-Leava gets a role in a play composed of the words from Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays expressing violence towards women, it generates a good deal of friction with his partner, an unnamed woman.
Why, she asks, would he want to play such a part?
But he does and to help prepare him for the part he looks at the statements of the convicted rapist Mike Tyson the boxer and the disturbing memories of Patrick Stewart, recalling how as a child he tried to get in the way of his violent father’s attacks on his mother.
All the parts are performed by Joe Sellman-Leava who at times becomes the angry Tyson detailing bloody street fights and at other times Stewart worrying about his parents.
Tim, the director of this play within the play, urges him into role and disagrees when he and the actor Sally wonder if it might not be a good idea to also hear the voice of a woman.
Although he has been with his partner for a year, their conversations are taking on an odd tone. Late one night, she observes that, “now we live together, we will always live together or break up.”
Maybe the arguments around his role in Tim’s play are simply a symptom of a disintegrating relationship, but they certainly become a focus.
She doesn’t think he should be doing it and is not impressed that Tyson is part of his prep, especially when he refuses to admit Tyson was a rapist. This prompts her to provocatively argue that all men are rapists and he in reaction to have the urge to hit her.
Joe Sellman-Leava is remarkable in confidently and convincingly switching between all the roles in the play. However, the opening clips of Stewart and Tyson seem too fast to easily tune in to their contents and it is always difficult to catch the meaning of Shakespeare’s lines.
But the play settles into its engaging stride and, as the character sits aboard a late night bus, there is a very moving lyrical moment of revelation and calm.
There can be the impulse towards violence but those impulses are not inevitable and there are always choices about ways to avoid them and not act on them should they occur.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna