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Metta Theatre in association with Greenwich Theatre present

The Man With the Flower in His Mouth

by Luigi Pirandello

 

Adapted and Directed by Poppy Burton-Morgan

 

The London Particular

 

Nov 10 - Dec 5 2010

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Walking into the warm and inviting New Cross café, The London Particular, it is instantly clear from the sumptuous organic menu scribbled on the wall in rustic chalk and the subtle vintage allusions of its fixtures and fittings, that Metta Theatre have successfully adapted and updated the setting of Luigi Pirandello’s The Man With the Flower in His Mouth from a dreary 1920’s ‘miserable all-night café’, to a present day London establishment - health conscious, understatedly trendy and rather smug. So how will the play’s dark themes of madness, illusion and self-inflicted isolation fare in this updated environment of comfort and cosiness?

This one-act play captures a brief and simple encounter between two people in a café, typical of the commonplace events in which Pirandello’s writing so skilfully conjures up profound inner dramas of astonishing power and beauty. The Traveller is patiently and quietly spending the night in a café after missing the last train home. She then finds herself absorbed into a chance encounter with a man whose seeming eccentricity leads him to seek the company of strangers, and wander the streets observing and clinging to the very minute details of the lives of others. The Man with an endearing combination of passion, philosophical musings, imagination and comedic interludes, gradually reveals a much darker motivation than mere eccentricity. A wonderful example of Pirandello’s distinctive flavour of comic agony, it is a simple story that is quietly exhilarating.

The play is essentially a collection of elegantly written monologues delivered by the character of The Man, and Samuel Collings does a terrific job of commanding the space for the duration of the production. With a balanced, but perhaps slightly cautious mixture of quirky oddball and sage philosopher, Collings at certain moments attains that perfect equilibrium of simplicity and thrilling intensity that is at the very essence of Pirandello’s art. One such moment is in his description of the captivating beauty in the expert folding and wrapping of parcels by shop assistants, Collings’ ability to render this convincingly moving is to be highly commended. Liana Weafer as The Traveller, a character adapted from male to female by director Poppy Burton-Morgan, takes on the challenge of a role that in the wrong hands could well be eclipsed by the commanding intensity of the main protagonist. However, Weafer delicately combines the restrained awkwardness of many a London commuter with a credible portrayal of a captivated listener to secure a quiet but solid presence.

Director Burton-Morgan’s adaptation of Pirandello’s 1923 text relocates it to London, but does not completely modernise it, with talk of shopping in the form of ribbon adorned parcels and the elegant furnishings of Harley Street Doctors’ offices evoking London’s more elegant past. In the setting of such a contemporary London café, this combination works to create a slightly disconcerting sense of the unreal. This unreality allows the unsettling pathos so vital to the play’s effectiveness to be potently present alongside the comfortable surroundings and frothy fair-trade cappuccinos. The intimate proximity to the action, worked to create a wonderfully immersive experience, fulfilling Metta Theatre’s aim to ‘tell stories that include the audience in the act of telling’.

The production’s only weakness was that it felt to some extent reserved and somewhat undecided in its suggestions of the unreal. Katharine Heath’s creative costume design saw Samuel Collings dressed in an elaborate get up of mismatched brogues, beaten up bowler hat, gaudy red satin blazer and an eclectic array of buttons and badges, all combining to evoke a roguish, exotic character with a stronger leaning to the unreal and eccentric than Collings’ performance allowed. This (albeit) small disparity gave the suggestions of the unreal in the performance an air of restraint that may have minimized its potential effect.

Metta Theatre’s production of The Man With the Flower in His Mouth tackles a playwright whose vastly rewarding theatre is famously difficult to capture. Yet through talented performances and experienced directing, it skilfully, although somewhat cautiously, manages to strike a sophisticated balance between Pirandello’s appreciation of the commonplace and simple with the genius of his emotive intensity - a wonderful achievement.

 

 

Box Office: 020 8858 7755

www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk

www.mettatheatre.co.uk

The London Particular
399 New Cross Road, London, SE14 6LA

Wed-Sun 7pm and 8.30pm

All Tickets £10

 

 

 

 

 

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