Saturday, 14 January 2017

Review The Albatross 3rd & Main


The Albatross 3rd & Main
by Simon David Eden

Let Us Prey
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

Somewhere beneath the morass of literary, TV and movie references blanketing The Albatross 3rd & Main, there could be a useful little comedy, probably one for the movies.

Unfortunately that tale gets lost in all the self-regarding references which halt the action and make the cast, playing otherwise clearly delineated characters, lose their bearings.

Directed and designed by writer Simon David Eden, it's perfectly well-staged in a detailed and evocative set, a convincing American roadside general store. But it may have been a wiser decision to bring in another director to look at the play's structure and make the verbals sing and zing for the stage.

Instead of three men and a baby, it's three men and a golden eagle. A dead golden eagle which can command big sums on the black market.

For the Golden Eagle (which we note is the national bird of Mexico), along with the bald headed eagle, the national emblem of the United States, are protected species. Even aiding and abetting the possession of or harming a feather on the back of these birds means law enforcement agents of the Fish & Wildlife Agency will be on your back.

Not a good situation when you are storekeeper Gene (Hamish Clark) who has already in desperation transferred his shop into the name of another man (Andrew St Clair-James) to lessen his responsibility for the thousands of dollars of debts accrued by his feckless wife from whom he is separated.

So when local mobster Ricky aka Spider (Charlie Allen) walks in with a dead golden eagle in a blood spattered box, the avian equivalent of the corpse-in-the-boot in gangster movie Good Fellas, it's enough to drive a guy nuts - and paranoid.

TLT immediately felt there was more than a nod towards Tracy Letts' Bug, recently seen in Charing Cross Road. And this, with constant allusions to Coleridge's poem Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, shades of detective serial Columbo and numerous other book and broadcast references, felt glaringly shoehorned in.

Yet the basic premise of three guys roped together into covering up their possession of an illegal eagle (yes, the roadkill tale turns out to be a tall tale)  has plenty of potential. But the plot seems to disintegrate with only three or four artificially forced pivotal pieces of action.

Still, when the supposed zingers slow down (the diction sometimes leaves something to be desired) in a few moments within the second act, there's some space for the script and acting to breathe. But otherwise this is a far too self-conscious a play which also tries to pile in  economic and political metaphors galore instead of concentrating on what could be a strong story.

The location is apparently Massachussets but the trio struggle with sometimes very uncertain American accents and diction.

Hoodlum Spider -- - think  a Damon Runyon character crossed with James Cagney. Punch drunk ex-boxer Louis aka Lullaby (St Clair-James) approaches Of Mice And Men's gentle giant Lenny. Hamish Clark finds his rhythm and eventually manages to nail storekeeper Gene, in spite of the playwright's verbose script and lack of investment in story and plotting.

For, with a firmer plot and less clunky clever-clever allusion, this might have been quirky, thoughtful and exciting, but, as it is, it's the lower range of an  amber light for what feels like an opportunity missed.

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