Sunday, 20 May 2012

Richard Parker

Thanks to a tip from a former colleague, we caught a great little play last night just over the road at Peartree Church Hall. The play was titled "Richard Parker" and drew on the story of (surprise, surprise) Richard Parker, a cabin boy who was cannibalised by fellow crew after a shipwreck off the coast of South Africa. More specifically, as this unfortunate sailor shared both the name and fate of a character in a novel by Edgar Allan Poe published several decades earlier, the play dealt with the phenomenon of coincidences, and spun this out in a two actor, two act play.

We weren't quite sure what to expect given the rather curious premise of the play and its extremely local venue, but it turned out to be a real treat. As well as touching on the coincidental fate of both Richard Parkers, fictitious character and real cabin boy, the play drew on quite a few other compelling stories of famous (and less famous) coincidences, including the purported parallels between the lives and deaths of US Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. And it did so really well, extracting a lot of dark comedy from these usually fatal coincidences, and ultimately spun all of this into a nice twist directly affecting the play's two characters (and Richard Parkers).

The play certainly seemed to go down well with the Peartree audience, and its humour was particularly appreciated - especially when it veered into an extended diatribe against "shitting seagulls". The only qualification I'd make - and it's one that applies to everything I've ever seen on stage - is that is was a little, well, stage-y. For all the visceral fun of seeing something live, I never get absorbed into it in quite the way I find with cinema, and never entirely forget the obvious fact that I'm watching actors on a stage. Anyway, hopefully the evening will have raised a good bit of cash to help the play's writer and cast travel to the Hollywood Fringe festival. The play has already done the rounds at UK festivals, but they're hoping that it gets some wider attention stateside. So good luck to them.

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