A novel concept, The Man is unlike any other show in Cambridge theatre this term.
Ben Edwards (played by Raph Wakefield), is a fumbling, nervous young man, who sets about doing his tax return with the assistance of the audience. Each member is provided with a receipt at the beginning of the show and throughout the performance Ben’s dialogue is dictated by the random order in which he collects the receipts. How the play manages to make complete sense despite its unpredictable chronology seems bizarre in hindsight, but nevertheless, it works brilliantly.It is certainly an impressive feat by playwright, James Graham (who also wrote Tory Boyz, which was a great success at Corpus last year).
Raph’s performance is very impressive. He continuously leaves the audience unsure of what is coming next. At one moment you feel endeared towards his awkward gestures and cheeky smiles but then, almost immediately after, your laugh is halted as he recalls darker stories about his past; some of the most moving monologues explain the heart-wrenching difficulties he faced with his brother.
At times it feels like Raph’s words are labored, his dialogue made too-purposefully to look and feel like he was casually remembering that particular anecdote. But this is only occasional. Moreover it seems excusable considering the fact that the weight of the play rests primarily on his shoulders, with the only brief respites provided in his entertaining, Cambridge-style awkwardly flirty dialogues with Lisa from the tax helpline.
The intimacy of the Corpus Playroom is the perfect setting for the play. It allows each audience member to feel as if they are having their own conversation with Ben, and certainly, the more information he reveals with each receipt he plucked from the audience, the more you want to know.
This play is neither a laugh-out-loud, nor is it depressing or traumatic. It is instead a sensitive blend of the two which leaves you feeling slightly uneasy, but pleasantly amused nonetheless.