Jack Studio Theatre – until 29 June 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
With the stage set up as a small enclosure constructed of polythene sheets, American Psycho immediately springs to mind, but the sight of Thomas Magill (Warren Taylor) frantically scratching on the floor and the trippy projections of dolls and babies accompanied by religious chanting announces a completely different type of mania.
Thomas (don’t ever call him Tommy) is surrounded by cassette recorders and flips through a tape until he finds the exact place to begin his story, one he has obviously re-enacted many times but still cannot accept. Thomas has recorded his conversations with the people of Inishfree, and carefully notes their sins in his notebook – at one point even threatening his cat with being marked down. Thomas acts as an unwanted prophet and judge, despairing that evil is now their God. Living with his mammy and the cat after his father’s death, Thomas’s daily routine of buying her favourite Jammy Dodgers and rubbing her with Vick seem to be the only anchor he has. Seeing sin in every stereotypical resident of Inishfree, portrayed with a recording or through Thomas’s unflattering impressions, he takes out his anger and frustration on a small dog, until he is seemingly saved by a beautiful angel.
Under Alex Howarth’s assured direction, the intensity of the play is magnified. Warren Taylor’s coruscating and devastating performance is both sympathetic and horrifying. There are no props except the cassette players, so Thomas uses mime, and together with Taylor’s nuanced expressions and gestures as Thomas tries to put his thoughts in order, this emphasises his mental health crisis effortlessly. Thomas’s inner world is brought to life brilliantly through Rachel Sampley’s design. From starry beauty and graceful doves to the looming characters as Thomas voices their words – their faces are never clear as their sins and threats are what Thomas remembers – Sampley’s mesmerising projections and lighting, alongside inspired sound and music, add another facet to Thomas’s fracturing mind and create something extraordinary