Phallic party politics pleases

9 February 2008

Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, ADC Theatre, 5th February, 23:00

3 Stars

Review by Annabel Banks

‘It’s simple, it’s direct; but above all else, it’s violent!’ crowed Matt Bulmer’s Malcolm, planning the assassination of his art-school headmaster. Although immediately recognising this as a bad idea, this fatally-flawed demagogue soon convinces his friends to join him in a romp through political protest and party-politics, all the while slipping into the violence and paranoia that hallmark a true dictatorship.

This production of Halliwell’s script played up the comedy, especially in the first half of this production. A full theatre always helps; the energy of laughter boosts the actors, and there were some wonderful moments. Active, mobile characters are always exciting to watch, and director Sarah Blisset made full use of the cast’s physical confidence to give us hilarious set pieces: a robbery, a kidnapping, a meeting on top of St Paul’s Cathedral- all were attacked with enthusiasm and responded to by the appreciative audience.

A sweetly performed kiss suddenly hushed the theatre, nicely setting up the next piece of action, when the fun turned on its heel, walked off the stage, and left a girl beaten to the floor by three men. This scene was admirably choreographed and performed – in fact, it was so well-done I watched, hand over mouth, flinching with every blow. Although some misplaced titters showed some audience members could not easily relinquish the pure comedy, this incredulity is surely a compliment to actors who had previously been so amusing.

But there were problems. Although a blessing to hear every word of such a clever and engaging script, the delivery of Bulmer’s lines began so massively that he had nowhere else to go. Admittedly this is an author-sanctioned character trait, with references to Malcolm’s ‘big voice’, but a little more range as he spewed his emphatic emptiness would have been welcome. The technical presentation was a bad joke, with house lights coming up mid-scene and stage lights going down leaving the actors in darkness. A little bit of giggling, a little hesitancy in delivery- all overcome quickly and easily forgiven but still not really what we’re after when we take our seats.

It’s a shame this only ran for one night. With a directorial tune-up, a sprinkle more vocal control, and theatre-loving volunteers holding large sticks in the technical booth, this could have been the something special it so very nearly was.