Man of Valour
The First Play from Playstation
The most engaging aspect of Man of Valour is the level of commitment it shows to the choices it has made. This is evident around half an hour in when Paul Reid, who carries the entire show in a one-hander, is literally drenched in sweat. He has been miming an entirely non-existent set and creating in contortions both subtle and bombastic an eccentric cast of characters to fulfil the play’s domestic/fantastical duality.
One is reminded of the warnings issued at aquatic displays, where the killer whale is enticed to breach the surface of the water in exchange for fish heads: “Warning! The front three rows will get wet!” It is enthralling though, to see this garishly face-painted man in an oversized cheap suit throw himself around the small stage, flicking globules of perspiration toward concerned spectators.
One of the risks with this type of production is loss of momentum. The performer must be incessant in pushing the show forward and if the writing sags even a little his work becomes that much harder. Thankfully, this is only really true of one sequence in which we are taken inside the protagonist’s Call of Duty style fantasy for the second time. We yearn for progress in the domestic story and although Reid again enacts the entire battlefield scenario it feels like a distraction.
There are no props, no set dressing, but simply a huge sheet of what appears to be rubber covering the floor and bending to climb the length of the back wall.This is another brave choice, justified by Reid’s extraordinary sound effect abilities, which complement his spasmodic movement. Much like Michael Winslow of Police Academy fame, he can replicate everything from the background din of a crowded train car through to the cadence of lift doors closing behind. Combine this with some projected visuals, which act as shorthand signifiers for changes in location and the possibilities for telling a full, complete story are limitless.
This is the area the production feels conflicted. It is admirable in its ambition, and rarely unable to contain the narrative with all its flights of fancy. Reid's shifts between slapstick and moments of genuine pathos are deft and evocative of the silent film greats.
However, the play can sometimes feel unsure of where it wishes to rest and what it wishes to say. The issue of multiple personality disorder is brought to the fore through the maniacal alter ego trying to kill the protagonist and a troubled relationship with his father is recalled in flashbacks.
By the end the impression is not that these themes have been dealt with haphazardly, but that the vehicle may not be quite suitable in encompassing them.
Traverse, 7 -14 Aug 2011 various timeshttp://www.traverse.co.uk