Amygdala Wonderland is quite simply a celebration of Sumner’s outstanding talent – it is not often I am kept thoroughly engaged by one-man two-hour shows. Yet, with an emotionally charged, quick-witted script, inventive set and carefully crafted action – I was left utterly impressed, and drained, by the performance.
With a full house of only fifteen people, I think the loud cheer at the close of the play speaks for itself. I must admit, the play opens in what I consider a rather pretentious, lyrical style; Sumner’s character George is somewhat endearing, but just a little too unconvincing.
Yet, soon the play takes on a different feel – this original George is lost and the audience is transported back two years in time to a younger, more relaxed George who can communicate with the audience directly. This allows for a mishmash of memories to play out, telling a perfect love story from beginning to end – hilarious, touching and exciting to watch with a shocking twist.
The play is very self-conscious, rife with brilliant audience interaction (notably, getting male audience members to wear a blonde wig and read romantic lines from a clipboard), yet still dreamlike in its structure, retaining a sense of wonder for the audience to bask in. Incidentally, the odd opening becomes intensely effective when the story comes full circle and so is not to be scoffed at. The set, as I had hoped for in such a small space, is completely immersive from the white wallpapered walls to the sand-covered floor. What appeared at first to be a simple set displaying a seaside apartment was in fact full of surprises; the bed hid an entire piano, and an ironing board, map of the UK and a camping light all flew down from pulleys above.
There is not a piece of this set which isn't used to its full potential – I appreciated that Sumner took his time to transport the audience from seaside to cityscape. Any silent setting-up is not uncomfortable or boring, it felt natural; the stage becomes his own space to move in as he pleases. It was a shame that there were a couple of technical blips -I believe there should have been a video link to the projector and a bucket of water failed to fall correctly – yet, these mistakes were smoothed over with skill.
The show indulges in plethora of technical delights. Light ranges from a single birthday candle illuminating Sumner’s face to dramatic spotlights and music includes bursts of improvised jazz by an audience member, to Sumner singing beautifully through a mic with a sock puppet – each adding to the storytelling.
I wish I could comment on the final twist, but I simply can’t spoil it for those lucky enough to get a seat in the following shows. All I can say is that I won’t be able to listen to ‘Orinoco Flow’ in the same way ever again.
Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Amygdala Wonderland is on at the ADC Larkum Studio until Saturday. Buy your tickets here.