Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Was He Anyone?

An Absurd play by N.F Simpson
Oblique House
Union Theatre, Southwark
(2007)

Publicity image

This play centres on a protagonist we never see yet we hear his cry for help. He is stranded in the sea, not to far from a cruise ship where passengers seemed rather put off by his cries for help.

Events on stage alternate between the deck of the cruise ship, where a party of middle class cruisers projecting an air of upper middle class self-importance is annoyed by the nuisance created by the call for help lest it touches their conscience. They wish the irritating calls for help are silenced so as not to upset their relaxation.

The drowning man's wife desperately tries to find a way to rescue her husband. As it so happened it is a National Help You Out Year Week and members are at hand to advise. Unfortunately the organization is as confused and incompetent as its meaningless title.

The wife is sucked into commercialisation of the potential rescue. Inadvertently she is a willing party to the amusingly grotesque reality of permitting an individual to drown initially due to total incompetence which later is translated to a cynical exercise in manipulation of media interest.

The rescue operation, or the lack of it, introduces absurdity in a form of what is supplied to the drowning character and the media interest in him so long as he is kept afloat or in a close-to-drowning state as practically possible. A grand piano is sent out to him and we later hear him playing a piano concerto accompanied by a full orchestra.

Sets and costumes are designed by Rosemary Flegg, which place this piece in the 1950s. It gels well with the surreality created. The play's subtitle declares this an absurd play. This production attempts to stimulate a nonsensical reality with elements that ring true at any place and any time, allowing bureaucracy and social egocentricity to triumph.

This interesting production is directed by Elgiva Field. The combination of straight acting with pantomime gestures in a world where reality and absurdity co-exist keep a degree of dramatic tension throughout the play.

The performance by all, namely Hannah Boyd, Peter Henderson, Craig Hendry, Joshua Hemmings, Joanne Hildon, Jan Goodman, Elinor Keber, Rebecca Ramsden, Nicola Sanderson, range from competent to excellent.

This production is now finished. Unfortunately, due to email problems, we didn't receive this review until two weeks later

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson