Strutting and Fretting: An Actor Despairs – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Until Nov 25th 2017
This is a one man show, written and performed by Chris McHallem. The title indicates that Shakespeare in general and MacBeth in particular is the territory with which the proceedings will be concerned. The action takes place back stage after the final performance of that play in a “spectacularly unsuccessful tour”. The lack of success is underlined by the weak applause which can be heard in the distance. The actor, who is nameless, has played the eponymous role is in his dressing room removing his make-up. He reflects on the play in general and in particular the relationship of MacBeth and his wife Lady MacBeth and their gender related roles.
His thoughts range widely while he analyses various phrases of Shakespeare’s text interspersed with more general theatrical musings such as the role of the stage manager, the cardinal rules which an actor must not break when on tour and some overall thoughts about a casting director. These and other insights are mixed, by way of illustration, with imaginary situations which involve various named individuals such as John Wayne and Osama bin Laden, for example. In other words McHallem’s text while remaining firmly moored in Shakespearean theatre, at times, sails off into rather unlikely happy speculation. These sort of musings, of course, are part of the human condition.
The nameless actor is not an upbeat personality but he manages to extract a black humour from the various situations which he relates. There is more “fretting” upon the stage than “strutting” and those who have a good knowledge of Shakespeare and Macbeth in particular will have an advantage. Helpfully the programme notes quotes in full the speech which begins “Tomorrow and to-morrow and to-morrow…” McHallem patently loves Shakespeare’s text and the Bard’s genius permeate the entire piece. His nameless actor is not “a poor player” and the tale which he relates, while undoubtedly a somewhat sombre one, is definitely not “a tale told by an idiot”.
Written and performed by Chris McHallem
Directed by Michael James Ford