Is he dead? A respectably-dressed man in Georgian apparel is lying there on the stage; a solitary chair is the sole accompaniment, and the only prop in this 75-minute production.
What follows is a solo telling of two weirdly interwoven stories, which seem to be intimate tales of isolation and family trauma. The sentences all make sense, but the stories are tangled up. They are full of troubled, confused descriptions of minds and of loss – at least, I think they are. I'm not sure; not enough connections are confirmed, or facts made clear. This is all dream-like. Is he dead?
The two stories told are over 200 years apart, set in Georgian Britain and in modern Australia. The characters, too, are a world apart: a teenage boy and an old-world gentleman. The narrative and clues are blended into a kind of stream-of-consciousness monologue.
Unfortunately, all this complexity, separation, allusion and diversity make for an opaque structure, which lost me quite early on. The main characters' strange related thoughts are slowly revealed through the acting prowess of Graeme Rhodes, who performs very well indeed. But while Rhodes' delivery is spot on, the script demands too much patience of the audience, a victim of its own ambitions perhaps. Too much is unexplained for too long; the play simply hangs there in beautiful fragments.
So, is he dead? I still don't really know. After about half an hour, I was frankly anxious for it to end, but with 45 minutes remaining I had to see it through. Sadly, the elements didn't explain themselves; it remained a disjointed set of interesting mental insights, a good idea trying to manifest itself as something whole.
The programme blurb mentions schizophrenia; perhaps the intention is to leave the audience suspended in a cloud of confusion, give an insight into what it's like to experience a disordered mind. Or perhaps this is a great arthouse feature-film script, that's suffered by being squeezed down into a Fringe play. Either way, please tell me. Was he dead?