By Bertie Ford
To say that Will Adamsdale’s play is of the unconventional sort would be a gross understatement, but in adapting this modern show for the barn, director Leo Clasen has successfully envisioned a quirky and nuanced show that entertains and surprises its audience at every turn.
Robyn Aitchison gives an ingratiating and highly likeable performance as Guy, the procrastinating writer who can’t seem to do anything right, contrasting quite hilariously with Jon Derrick’s bemused and innocent depiction of Elms, the eponymous Victorian in the Wall. Utilising a minimalist set complete with on stage dressing room and blueprint style floor plan, the plot ambles along in faintly anarchic fashion as the tragic past events of Elms’ life are revealed bit by bit in parallel to the slow destruction of Guy’s relationship and career. Highlights of the direction include well-timed Breaking Bad references and numerous strange yet comedic songs that advance the plot well, in particular Derrick’s facial contortions, which range from horrified at the wonders of television to intense excitement at the prospect of a weekend trip to exotic Margate. The anachronism of a well to do Victorian gentleman exclaiming ‘I need a juice dude’ did not fail to make the audience giggle.
And it is in the comedic moments that the play really begins to shine, in particular the juxtaposition between the Shaun of the Dead-esque comedy ‘Hi Rob! Bye Rob!’ and the more serious instances of the emotional failure of Guy to live up to his girlfriend’s expectations, played brilliantly by Chloe Payne who seamlessly switches from preoccupied businesswoman to Victorian songbird at the drop of a hat. Stand-out multi-rolers Seb Romaniuk and Ashley Milne made the audience roar with laughter as the exuberant and enthusiastic Polish adoptee Fortunately Maybe, and the surprisingly cultured fan of Darcy Bussell, Rob the Builder. The true strength of the cast however lay in the diversity of talent displayed, with a vast array of different voices, in sync a cappella, cockney barbershop quartets, irritating yapping from a convincingly small dog, even miniature black cab puppeteering; I never knew quite what to expect from one scene to the next.
The few criticisms that I do have are aimed primarily at the plot. Up until the final scene, Guy’s ineptness had been leading him toward a fall while Elms’ cowardice had led to his unrequited love remaining unrequited. However, Guy manages to win back his girlfriend in an anticlimactic scene of ‘throwing out’ their old habits, while the interesting side-stories of his two curious companions are left without a resolution. Despite a few technical errors, the lighting was done quite cleverly: a red and orange flickering spotlight transported us to the Victorian drawing room, while Earth Wind and Fire along with some disco lights brought us to Flares on a Friday night. Overall I enjoyed the play tremendously; plot issues aside, this was a marvellously enjoyable show with many laugh-out-loud moments and more than a few clever uses of staging and props.