My Esteemed Friend
Third Pier Theatre / Sweet Productions
Sweet @ The Poets
Daniel Hird is at Brighton Fringe performing two shows a day, Old Bones and his very different new solo show My Esteemed Friend.
Based on true events, the narrative of My Esteemed Friend weaves together two stories.
The first is partially autobiographical and based on Hird’s life as a young man growing up in Dundee and his first steps as an actor. The second runs alongside and features the strange and enigmatic character of the so-called ‘Professor’, a regular visitor to the theatre where Hird worked front of house and in the box office.
The Professor is a lonely soul somewhat out of tune with social norms and modern life more generally, formally communicating through handwritten letters to which he expects replies in kind. Representing him through an abstract, composite soundtrack, the aural version of a message conveyed in words cut from newspapers, is both eerie and economical and a masterly stroke from Hird and director Zoey Barnes.
The Professor’s invasion of Hird’s space is echoed back when Hird delves into the Professor’s life, more specifically the life of his estranged son, and a question hangs in the air as to the boundary between stalking and legitimate research.
Hird’s story focuses on a whirlwind romance that rapidly moves to cohabitation and pregnancy, and how that marries up with his career ambitions, the writing occasionally drifting towards a love letter to the theatre.
Through these parallel stories, Hird looks at masculinity, male roles and duty. How the mens’ experiences overlap or connect to one another isn’t always clear and there is a sense that Hird is a little apologetic about his commitment to his art and somehow not entitled to carve out a path of his own choosing.
My Esteemed Friend, perhaps emphasised by Hird’s youthful looks and congenial demeanour, has a coming-of-age feel to it. It is a gentle denouement in which Hird draws together the threads of stories that by their nature lack hard facts. In closing, he concedes that life doesn’t always give you the answers you hoped for, but isn’t it ever thus?
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti