Flycatcher, Hope Theatre – Review

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads

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Madelaine (Emily Arden) and Bing (Alex Shenton)

Asides from the usual repertoire of interesting plays, every so often the Hope Theatre showcases plays thay are unconventional and keeps the audience on its toes. In recent years, shows that have taken this absurdist direction have included The Worst Was This and Sea Life, taking something familar before veering to a different trajectory. In trying to encapsulate what Gregg Masuak’s Flycatcher is like, I’ve been thinking along the lines of “Charlie Kaufman meets Terry Gilliam” or “The Fast Show meets David Lynch” – especially in the second half of the play. But I’ll come back to that.

At at the centre of Flycatcher lies Madelaine (Emily Arden). As the ‘spider’ in question, she observes many things at the cafe she works at, things that other people don’t necessarily pick up on. Her intense stare, however, sets her apart from others and not everyone is comfortable spending time with her. The object of Madelaine’s affection is Bing (Alex Shenton), a convivial insurance salesman who is as different as could be from her. If that wasn’t enough of a stumbling block to them being romantically involved, Bing has his heart set on Olive (Amy Newton) who he reckons is a dead ringer for Grace Kelly.

Clockwise: Bruce Kitchener, Melissa Dalton, Emily Arden,
Alex Shenton, Amy Newton

Out of politeness, Olive agrees to accompany Bing to the cinema a couple of times, but her heart belongs to a married man (Nathan Plant), even though he has stood her up in the past. Realising the dynamics of the situations, Madelaine changes the paradigm by making Olive her friend and giving Bing his heart’s desire. However, Bing learns to ‘be careful what you wish for’, as having the unconditional love of Olive leads to the rest of his life unravelling…

There are various other characters in the play, but the link between these and the three principals is Mae (Fiz Marcus) – an eccentric grandmother who yearns for human contact, but is so often rebuffed. Playing Olive’s colleague at the art gallery and one of the beauticians at a cosmetic counter is Melissa Dalton, suitably put out at Madelaine’s request to buy just one lipstick without foundation or other cosmetic ‘essentials’.

The ensemble: Susanna Wolff, Melissa Dalton, Nathan Plant, Fiz Marcus

As well as playing the other cosmetic beautician, Susanna Wolff stands out at the psychiatrist who has to give her verdict on Mae for chaining herself in a supermarket, and as the wide-eyed housewife affrighted by Bing’s cold-calling.

Masuak draws from a lot of movie references in the play, quoting directly from films Grace Kelly appeared in. With a name like ‘Bing’, one would think his interest in this ‘Grace Kelly’ alludes High Society and ‘True Love’. However, it would be more accurate to compare Bing here to Jimmy Stewart’s character in Vertigo – obsessed with someone because she reminds him of someone else. In this play, everything is a little off-kilter, with characters sensing things aren’t quite right, but unable to articulate their thoughts and doubts.

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L-R: Fiz Marcus, Alex Shenton, Emily Arden and Amy Newton

Newton’s Olive is understandably aggrieved at Bing, tired of being admired for her looks, rather than the person she is. Of all the things that take place in the play, this is probably the most emotionally truthful, touching on a universal truth. In the case of Bing’s lukewarm feelings, once his ‘pursuit’ is over and doesn’t need to earn Olive’s love, he begins to lose interest.

As for Arden as Madelaine – the architect of the play’s events – her eccentric mannerisms and expressive face go a long way to setting the mood of the play. Like a Lynchian movie Flycatcher doesn’t spoonfeed answers, but it gives its audience plenty to think about.

© Michael Davis 2017

four-stars

Flycatcher runs at the Hope Theatre until 2nd December.
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/flycatcher/

Directed by Gregg Masuak. Assistant Director – Peter Taylor
CAST: Emily Arden – Madelaine, Amy Newton – Olive, Alex Shenton – Bing, Fiz Marcus ­– Mae, Nathan Plant ­– Various, Susanna Wolff ­ – Various, Bruce Kitchener – Various, Melissa Dalton.

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