My Arm

Tim Crouch
Greyscale Theatre Company
Ustinov, Bath and touring
(2010)

My Arm is the second of Greyscale Theatre Company's double-bill currently playing at the Ustinov. First written and performed by Tim Crouch in 2003, this is the beautifully written, if unnerving, story of a ten year old boy whose childish "empty gestures" come to dictate the course of his life.

One evening, after a summer fireworks party, the boy decides to raise his right arm in the air. Initially this is just another of countless obsessive childhood dares he and his brother set themselves. But this one turns out to be different: once the arm is up, he never takes it down. Hereafter, he becomes known as 'Arm Boy' and a bizarre series of events is triggered.

Sandy Grierson gives a compelling performance in this one-man show. He is edgy, nervy and exquisitely disconnected from the people who populate his world and from the events that unfold around him. And yet, in spite of this emotional detachment, Grierson's open and affable tone ensures that he establishes an entirely different relationship with the audience. With a gently conspiratorial tone, he draws the audience into the inner sanctum of this idiosyncratic mind. It's irresistible stuff.

In fact it's this intimacy between actor and audience which makes My Arm work so well. Grierson manages this artfully - much as David Ireland does in the other half of the company's double-bill, What Would Judas Do? Both pieces engage the audience directly, in a way that's still rare in theatre: this is no passive experience.

This sense of collaboration between cast and audience is clearly to be something of a Greyscale hallmark, under the artistic directorship of Lorne Campbell and Selma Dimitrijevic. Certainly in this double-bill, with intelligent direction and pitch-perfect performances, it is proves a creative and entirely effective approach.

Runs at the Ustinov, Bath until May 1st, then tours to Northern Stage, Newcastle.

Reviewer: Allison Vale