The Sun, The Mountain, And Me

Jack Fairey
Bedivere Arts
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Max Puplett in The Sun The Mountain and Me Credit: Letterbox Films
Max Puplett in The Sun The Mountain and Me Credit: Letterbox Films
Max Puplett in The Sun The Mountain and Me Credit: Letterbox Films

Jack Fairey’s play The Sun, The Mountain, And Me is both a contemplation of freedom and a product of the COVID pandemic.

Written for audio consumption in the lockdown of 2020, it is concerned with the themes of its time, looking at confinement through the eyes of Arthur, an artist suffering from a mental health condition. With the re-worked, current staged version set in the present day and no quarantine rules applying, the lines around what came first, the captivity or the disorder, are blurred.

We find the self-described “socially claustrophobic” Arthur suffering a creative block. He should be finishing a painting for his brother and getting ready to go to a party with his girlfriend. Instead Arthur becomes distracted by a picture of Icarus he finds in a childhood book.

As he considers the incarceration of Icarus and his father, Daedalus, and their mythical escape on wings made of wax and feathers, he starts to paint his own picture of the young man, and their stories start to meld with that of Felice Benuzzi, whose portrait he should be working on instead.

Benuzzi, his brother’s hero, also has an extraordinary story of escape. An Italian and keen climber, he was detained in British-controlled Kenya during the Second World War, but with a fellow prisoner, he escaped to climb Mount Kenya before voluntarily returning to the PoW camp, where their punishment was commuted out of respect for their achievement.

As Arthur paints, he forgets everything, consumed by an audacious spirit. It is Benuzzi’s nobility that inspires him to break with convention, or is it the hubris for which Icarus is known that carries Arthur’s paintbrush beyond the edges of the canvas and across the walls of his flat? Is this the creative outpouring of an artist or the destructive force of his daemon?

Fairey has directed his solo play, lifting it from an audio work and giving it a good deal of movement, albeit that all the action takes place in Arthur’s messy living room. Designed by Joe Malyan, the space is dominated by a painter’s easel in each corner, which is fitting for Arthur the artist, but the absence of any furniture, makes it somewhat unreal for a home and forces Arthur to zig-zag between the focus points.

Fairey has coloured feathers thrown into the air in an apt nod to the wings of Icarus, as Arthur adorns the walls with bold splashes of paint. Malyan’s lighting design could have contributed something here, reinforcing the more lasting impact of the artist’s unguarded actions.

Fairey has stepped into the role of Arthur following cast illness; he acquits himself well and his redemption, which comes in unexpected form, is welcome.

This is a sympathetic play with an interesting premise, although I remain uncertain about exactly what Fairey has in his sights. One message though is clear: that when we are free of our bonds, we may soar and crash but we may also return home.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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