views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

A Man Who Lost His Mind
White Bear Theatre
13th April 2014

★★★☆☆

Matthew Crowley as Adam

Photography supplied by 11:11 Productions

There's something reassuringly old-school about Matthew Crowley's form of storytelling. It's simplistic and traditional, the writer spending more time crafting the idea than the dialogue which carries it. It's therefore fitting that his play A Man Who Lost His Mind has transferred from The White Rabbit to The White Bear, from one fairytale-sounding venue to another.

In the first ten minutes, one character delivers the advice, "If something isn't working for you, try something new" and it's pleasing that not only is this heeded by Crowley's character, but by the playwright himself. A second run is a chance to rework the parts which didn't land as well as they should have done, particularly when the run is as short as this, and Crowley has tried to address previous weaknesses.

The title remains self-explanatory; Crowley plays Adam, a man who wakes up in bed with no understanding of how he came to be there. It quickly becomes apparent that Adam has some kind of amnesia, and can only unravel his story with the help of five mysterious strangers, The Commuter (Martin Foreman), the Lady in Red (Abi Unwin-Smith), a Soldier (Raphael Morris), Gandhi (Paul Hughes) and a Mother (Charlotte Gascoyne).

Half of the cast in this production are returners. Unwin-Smith delivered an excellent performance last time, her character confident, sultry and full of intrigue, and she doesn't disappoint when revisiting the role. Crowley's revisions allow him to display some more emotional depth, Adam finally showing another aspect of his personality. As for Morris, his performance remains competent overall, but he still needs to work on his accent.

But what of the new additions? Well, it's a surprise to see Foreman on stage rather than behind it, but it's a welcome cameo. His portrayal of The Commuter is subtly different, Foreman imbuing his portrayal with more pomp, and bringing out the humour that bit more. He is suitably mysterious, baffling and comic, helping to establish the framework for the story to follow. Gascoyne is a convincing Mother, but once again, it's the encounter with Gandhi which is the least satisfying. With the actor having changed, it suggests the fault is more in the narrative here.

A Man Who Lost His Mind holds up quite well to a second viewing. It's a cleverly constructed puzzle, the script and set littered with clues if you know where to look - and of course, the second time you do. The set design was one of the cleverer elements to the play's last run, and director Kellie Walters recreates it as much as possible here, adapting the design to a larger venue. Given The White Bear is a black box theatre, here every touch from Walter is deliberate - the paintings by Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali some of the more obvious hints, but there's plenty more to take in. Walters has spent a great deal of time on the detail, look and you will be rewarded.

Adam complains of "running out of time" and with the play still only around the 45-minute mark, I also felt like I wanted more time. I'm not sure if it's the change to the cast or the few tweaks to the script, but I enjoyed this version much more and with only one performance left - I meant what I said about the run being short - there's a limited opportunity to delve into Adam's world.

The Man Who Lost His Mind opened on 13th April and runs until 14th April 2014 at the White Bear Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Kennington (Northern)



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