Down And Out In Paris And London – New Theatre – Review
by George Orwell, Adapted by Phelim Drew
Until May 26th
Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full length work by George Orwell. It was published in 1933 when the author was 30 years old. It is an autobiographical piece that tells of Orwell’s early years living in those two great cities. Instead of being a tale of fame and glamour, what we are served is the abject poverty of the author as he made his way working in odd jobs. The book is converted to a mere 80 minutes on stage, but we get a good feel for the wildness and absurdity of his life during this time. It is not what you would expect from a world famous author, even in his early twenties.
This is a one man show with Phelim Drew playing all the characters. The only set the actor has to work with is a table and two chairs which are centre stage. All locations and settings are created by Drew himself, which adds to the complexity of his task. He brings the audience through a variety of settings and creates many unusual characters. Drew has a gift with accents and it is rare to see an actor able to change between so many characters from all over the globe with style and ease. We get to meet Russians, Italians and even some Irish characters. His main voice is that of Orwell himself, an Eaton graduate with a natural confidence and a powerful and commanding voice. His English accent is flawless, which again is rarely seen on an Irish stage.
The story is relatively bleak but does have many humorous incidents along the way. Some of the most exciting elements are his descriptions of working at hotels and restaurants in Paris, where the next calamity is only seconds away. This production was first performed back to 2014 in the Dublin Fringe Festival. In recent years, Drew has played a number of smaller parts in productions such as Once and the Plough and the Stars. He is always enjoyable on stage and often steals scenes in these larger productions. This is now a chance to see him as the sole occupant of the stage! If you’ve ever dreamed of life in Paris in the 1920s, you can taste in right here.
Performed by Phelim Drew
Costume Design – Therese McKeone
Lighting Design – Colm Maher
Sound design – Philip Stewart