Sunday, 5 February 2017

Review Run The Beast Down

The latest member of the TLT community is Peter Barker, who worked on local newspapers before stints at ITN, UK and China news agency branches and on free commuter paper Metro. He now reviews a compelling new play as a City slicker fallen on tough times goes native in London's feral landscape.  

Run The Beast Down
by Titas Halder

Brush With The Wild Side

As many a London resident will tell you, foxes are a menace; unwelcome in the city, tearing into rubbish bags, looking for hidden trifles and trotting the sidewalk with a cheek that makes you want to call the hunt -  if only Tony Blair hadn't banned it, damn him!

But it’s the fox within the man that Titas Halder’s new play ‘Run the Beast Down’ pursues at the Finborough Theatre.

Arrive early in the auditorium and the inventive soundscape from on-stage DJ Chris Bartholomew working decks and computers with virtuosity will greet you.

After that, the main man, Charlie, appears in what is otherwise essentially a one-man play  -- played with vulpine good looks and energy by the charismatic Ben Aldridge.

He is truly a creature of these times, probably a sure bet for a successful life with a loving partner, a high-flying job (in the City) and the sought-after London apartment. 

OK, he may also be a TK Maxx kind of guy; clad in cheap black jeans, cheaper black T-shirt and bold-coloured sneakers. But can you tell from the outside what the man is -- what motivates him, what has shaped him, what he is?

And will he beat the pack chasing him, or get cornered?

Our rummaging through Charlie’s rubbish begins with the unexpected woes which descend on him all at once -- he loses his job and has been - sort of -  burgled. At least his girlfriend has left him, taking almost everything, apart from the curtains.

Insomniac Charlie is the filter through which we experience his increasingly bizarre environment and the people around him. Writer Halder demonstrates considerable flair, building the momentum of a fantastical mental and physical journey with a poetic wit. In Aldridge’s Charlie he certainly finds an actor who can rise to the task -- his transformations of mood and movement are seamlessly defined.

The mystery at the heart of the play, the threats, whether real or imagined, and Charlie's metamorphosis are intriguing. Yet, it must be said at the same time, he is just another one of those middle class 20-something London guys you see on the tube whom you'd assume has a good job and comes from a relatively privileged background. So he remains neither quite heroic enough to be admired nor twisted enough to be... well, admired.

But we can pity him and, when he dissolves, there is literally and metaphorically something of everybody about him.

As Charlie unravels, we see him maniacally writing a label for each new scene on the floor of the stage until, finally, there is little space left untouched. The bare plinth set, designed by Anthony Lamble, with a rear wall of thick upright metal tubes and LED lighting,  is ultimately not even covered with words, just a crowded jumble of letters.

Like the set, the lighting from Rob Mill is versatile, unintrusive, without gimmickry. Equally the electronic score orchestrated by Bartholomew and sound by Ben and Max Kingham  complements the pace of the play and makes a significant contribution to the evening.

Director Hannah Price keeps the feral drama tightly focussed, skilfully maintaining the precarious balance of Charlie's flamboyant high-wire act which must reach the end of the line before he really crashes and burns. This 80-minute debut from writer Titas Halder, developed at Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre, emerges polished and sharp in Price's production with Aldridge's gripping  performance all deserving a green light. 

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