ADC Theatre, 11pm, until Sat 1 Dec
Post is an interesting exercise in watching a developing artist. Harry Michell's last self-written work, Plank, erred perhaps slightly too much on the side of the unintelligible, his solidly witty and sharp writing sometimes undercut by audience confusion. If there is a serious criticism to level at Post, it is that Michell – this time teaming up with Will Attenborough - has gone a touch too far in the other direction.
The piece is a monologue, performed by Ed Eustace, who holds the stage admirably and keeps our attention throughout, even when he's muttering, back turned on an audience who by this point in the term certainly has the potential to be drunk and/or asleep. Eustace is Terry, a postal worker with a pleasing disregard for other people's privacy and a dark back story. But then, characters in monologues do always have a dark back story, otherwise the piece would likely be rather shorter and less interesting – but the exposition of Terry's moves away from a trope into the downright hackneyed. The Chekhov's gun of piles of letters across the stage begs from the beginning to be strewn about in a display of angst and madness somewhere throughout the piece, and the piece does not disappoint. The writing too is embroidered with little mentions of emotive ideas which, we are made slightly too aware, will later be ‘significant' – the repetition, for example, of "Cynthia, goddess of the sea" becomes a too-obvious ‘motif'. It feels as if Michell and Attenborough are fine-tuning their pitching at the moment – attempting to neither underestimate nor overestimate his audience.
At times it's just perfect; the description of a single, glorious summer in Terry's history is brought to life stunningly, the confluence of a pair of highly intelligent writers and Eustace's knack for fresh, honest emotion bringing a true high point to the piece, and it's not the only one – despite criticisms Post is still an incredibly accomplished and interesting piece of student writing. Michell and Attenborough are blessed, however, with a skilled pair of realisers in director Charlie Risius and lead Eustace. Risius keeps the pace fresh and flowing and there's a wise use of levels – designer Connie Harper closes the set in with three tall blocks of pigeonholes and at times the height of them defeats Eustace, leaving him jumping pathetically to the top row, a wittily emotional image of overreaching. The obviously talented Eustace has a harder job – Terry's voice is mainly consistent and he creates and full and interesting character around it, but when the writing loses momentum and the character is sent back to cliches or platitudes, Eustace too loses focus and his gestures become too caricatured, his sighs and pauses too staged.
It's hard to write about this show without sounding over-critical – it's really a very fine piece of drama, written with heart and mind both in play, directed wisely and featuring a pretty stunning central performance. But perhaps that's just it – the generally high quality of what's going on shows up the areas where improvement would just lift this piece into the truly outstanding. Head over and see it, and while you're there maybe get a ticket for the next piece this team can come up with – I've got a feeling it'll be even better.