Having just returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I was very intrigued to be invited to a show that is part of the Camden Fringe, which also runs in August. Shadows at the Hen and Chicken’s Theatre is a new play by up and coming writer, Rebecca Windsor. The show is rather like a Beckett style stream of consciousness from one actor, set amid spooky lighting and “shadows.”
Mark Desebrock plays Peter, the sole body and voice of the show. Representing the “everyday” kind of guy, he wears a shirt with a slack tie as if he has returned home an average day at the office, but on returning (or perhaps escaping to the stationary cupboard?! Who really knows!) he has succumbed to the deep dark chasms of his mind. Desebrock is truly fantastic from start to finish; he is both funny and tragic in equal measures and engaging from beginning to end, which is somewhat of a challenge in a one man show. It is nice to see an actor display a full range of emotions, levels and rhythms in one piece and Desebrock manages to do just this.
Whilst I imagine it must be difficult to direct a 30 minute monologue, James Muller provides the subtlety the text requires. Tension is built nicely from start to finish using just one man, one chair and one bag (and its contents…) This is theatre in its bare simplicity and for this show it really works.
Andy Robinson’s designs are similarly simplistic and equally as effective; basic cardboard cut outs generate images akin to shadow puppetry on a white sheet with some clever back lighting casting eerie shadows across the stage. The set provides an unpretentious yet intriguing backdrop to the drama and one soon realises that the images depicted are indeed relevant to the story. Robinson’s creation is a visual suggestion that the stream of consciousness on stage may well be a discussion of the shadows, or perhaps more aptly “ghosts,” haunting Peter’s mind.
The best aspect to Shadows is its clever and thought provoking script. Windsor manages to capture the inner complexity of a man with a seemingly non-extraordinary existence. The text implores the audience to intellectually engage with what is being said, which is no mean feat and somewhat of a rarity these days. I imagine Peter’s monologue struck a chord with more than just me as his thoughts ranged from the mundane to the somewhat existential. I mean, haven’t we all pondered the meaning of our own existence?
The only real criticism I would have to offer the piece is that its ending feels somewhat rushed and I was not wholly convinced that the resolution was necessary. Perhaps 30 minutes is too short for a play of this complexity and could do with some development to allow it to evolve into the full piece of theatre it so nearly is.
At just £5 a ticket and in a lovely intimate theatre space, deciding whether to see Shadows is a no-brainer. Go. See something new. I for one certainly hope to see more from Windsor in the future.