A plain stage filled with only a chair sets the tone for a bare and honest reveal of what’s to come. Five men on stage take their turn exploring the depths of their truth and what struggles they have faced within this. Any piece that is constructed by a string of monologues sets itself quite a challenge to keep the audience engaged. Some pieces can fall into the pitfall of not engaging the audience in the right way, which can result in an overbearing thud of disinterest if not dealt with well.
I found Reprehensible Men Part II to be very inconsistent in this regard. Dan Horrigan wrote all five pieces, so one would expect a level of fluidity and resonance running throughout each piece. The truth of this unfortunately was that each piece didn’t marry with the next. That’s not to say that the men should have been connected per se, but some of the stories are far more developed in terms of depth, and it is obvious to see where this is because some of the actors take their stories off the page and are very exciting to watch. On the other hand, there are moments where, dare I say, the speech falls flat.
Christopher Preston begins with a piece called Stay Alive in a somewhat stiff manner. The riddles in the text seem to throw him off, and it often feels as if he is trying to remember the lines rather than saying them spontaneously. He litters his delivery with pauses which sucks any energy, pace and momentum from the piece. His tenseness detracts from the story, so that when there is an opportunity for call and response from the audience, the connection hasn’t been established and it feel all too uncomfortable.
Fortunately, Jamie Pigott redeems this with A Coward In Love. The charisma he brings to the stage is vastly different and exciting to watch. You can really see him imagining the woman he talks about, whilst maintaining a good connection with the audience. His character choices are interesting and you can tell he is comfortable owning the stage. A great save to the overall piece.
The same goes for Moving On performed by Gareth Radcliffe. He comes onto the stage with strong and deeply rooted character choices, and it is intriguing to hear his story as he again is unafraid to directly engage with his audience. The only section that jars is the audience participation section at the end with an audience member giving him ‘money’ (an audibly ripped piece of paper). It added nothing to the piece at all and felt like we had almost been conned into feeling sorry for him as he started to beg for money, rather than just sympathising with his story.
Harvey Bassett delivers a piece revolving around a man using rohypnol to attract women into his life. As a woman, I hope to see topics like this dealt with a certain sensitivity which is missing from this piece. Bassett chooses to portray an ‘evil baddie’ persona from the start, which means that the climactic shouting match of desperation isn’t given enough of a build up to peak.
Finally we end with Christopher Sherwood in Read To Me. Again, this is another example where a piece is tailored brilliantly by the actor with interesting choices, only to be defeated by a staged ‘audience participation’ section. It destroyed the illusion of the realness which was disappointing after Sherwood’s obvious hard work.
I think all in all, a little editing is required for these pieces. They all have great potential with some being of a very high standard, but the inconsistency was difficult to follow.
Reprehensible Men Part II played at the Tristan Bates Theatre until August 19.