Monday, 16 November 2009

A Man of No Importance - Union Theatre, London

A Man of No Importance
Book: Terrence McNally.
Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens.
Music: Stephen Flaherty.
Director: Ben De Wynter
Reviewer: Adrian Pumphrey

There are not many fringe stage productions that make you feel as though you have front seats at a large stage but ‘A Man of No Importance’ is certainly one of them. With a relatively large cast and a fantastic score, this musical drama warmed the heart on what was a very wet night. With many a song that would stay in your head and fine acting, this made for a great night out.

With an understated start, it wasn’t long before the cast were filling this studio stage with prose and poetry aplenty as you were very much taken into the world of a small Dublin community. The main character Dublin bus conductor Alfie (Paul Clarkson) is a man keen to bring the locals together in putting on a performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome. As people get together to rehearse, not everyone it seems is so happy about the staging of such a questionable play. But the story is less about a few locals putting on a production and more a story of acceptance, of discovery and openness to change with poetry reading Alfie at the heart.

The acting in this piece was fantastic with great performances from Roisin Sullivan and Patrick Kelliher as Adele and bus driver Robbie respectively. The whole cast however brought the play to light admirably with each adding their own flavour to the show. The huge character of the writing turned what is on the surface a smaller-than-life situation into a larger-than-life musical without seeming ‘laboured’.

What really brought this to life though was the songs such as ‘Streets of Dublin’, ‘Man in the Mirror’ and the wonderfully comical ‘Books’. With intelligent melodies and interesting lyrics, composer Stephen Flaherty and Musical Director Christopher Peake gave us a great study in bringing out the music in seemingly mundane situations.

But this was no play that was pulled along by the merits of the melody. The story taken from Terry McNally’s book was as subtle and intense as it was gripping. With a slow pace and a solid performance, the plot drew you in from the start and didn’t really let you go even at the end. The first act gave you the sense of a hearty village play with many a theme to sway to. But the darker side of the performance started to rear its head ready to bite us on return from the interval which of course was completely thrilling.

‘A Man of No Importance’ was a well put together performance and a great exploration of musical theatre. There was not much to fault here at all. This is only helped by the edgy venue of the Union Theatre. A great space which is used to great affect. One thing is for sure, the world of fringe theatre could learn a lot from this wonderful production.

runs until Sat 5th Dec
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