If it wasn’t for the theatre-goers smoking outside, this review would have never been written. Over the main road from Warren Street, once inside Camden People’s Theatre I wonder, if it is a kitchen or a foyer? Aside from the unimpressive exterior, I have very little bad to say about this double bill of Hitch and Crunch. In fact, I left feeling inspired and proud of humanity in general. This belief in humanity faded a little on the tube home but this didn’t detract from the sharp performances of Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair. Both lads from Glasgow, they bring with them optimism, sharp wit, and with a view to attain liberty and freedom. I liked both of them as people, their delivery wasn’t forced but natural, more like public speeches than plays; Hitch and Crunch wouldn’t be incongruous on the TED website – an archive of stimulating speeches with the slogan “ideas worth spreading” available online. This is exactly what Hurley and McNair’s performances presented, ideas that are worth spreading. I found myself constantly reaching for my pen and paper to catch a quote that might find its way onto my bedroom wall – one already has: “we raised our hands in peace and our voices in song”.
Hitch performed by Kieran Hurley, told the story of his journey from Glasgow to L’Aquila in Italy for the G8 protests in 2009. It was unclear at first, whether Hitch was a true story or an elaborate lie to demonstrate the power of “will and honesty” in the face of destructive authority and the need for change. At the end, however, Hurley himself was seen in video footage at the G8 protests, surrounded by evidence of his terrific journey across Europe. L’Aquila was his final goal, but the success of this performance was in the detail of the absurd but truthful people that he met on the way. For their voices, Hurley approached the lone microphone and with an acute alteration in tone, spoke as them. Hurley describes ‘Pete’ who first offered him a lift, a man who rants about his in-laws and Stoke on Trent, Gabriel the English Jazz Pianist, and the Italian Rabbi who had a tendency for beer and cheese. These people felt real and relevant; together their kindness and humility cast a warm light over humanity and, importantly, enabled Hurley’s hike to L’Aquila. The overall sense of optimism was very emotive, especially the euphoric atmosphere created in the Patti Smith concert in Rome, where Hurley echoes her liberating words: “people have the power to redeem the work of fools”’ again and again. There was a sincere notion of change and revolution.
Crunch was equally effective and was delivered with brilliant confidence. The programme introduction read “Is it a lecture? Is it a test? Is he really serious?” By the end, I could only answer one of those: it was a test. Whether he was serious remains a mystery. Gary McNair’s pitch introduced money as a belief system, one that we all have a lot of faith in. The piece wanted to radically change our relationship with money so that by the end, at least one of us would be willing to shred a note of our own hard earnings. Surprisingly, nobody volunteered, although one lady happily shredded £10 of McNair’s. His performance was relaxed and suave, and he handled the reluctant audience participation well. What stood out as one of his strengths was his sharp wit and ability to react spontaneously to audience suggestions, in fact his adlibs created the majority of the comedy. Not only did I learn a huge amount about the initial introduction of money to society, but I was also laughing while I learnt it, mainly because of McNair’s accurate caveman impressions. While there it is a rare individual who abandons money altogether, the majority of us are unwilling to part with it – after all it is integral to survival. The end of the piece comprised choral speaking with the audience reading together from the Powerpoint. The line that I will be sure to remember in the future – “I am worth more than a pound”. And I would hope so too.
Hitch and Crunch are playing at the Camden People’s Theatre until 19 May. For more information and tickets, see the Camden People’s Theatre’s website.