views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Found
The Hope Theatre
31st March 2015

★★★☆☆

Robert Saunders as Brian

Photography provided by The Hope Theatre

Have you ever been out for a run, found an unconscious man then taken him home as a pet? Can't say I ever have, but that's exactly what Mark (Jack Harding) does in Luke Adamson's Found, a play which was first staged back in 2013 and has only just made its way down to London. Apparently up in the north they don't have shelters like the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home; if they want to take in a stray, they find strange men on the beach and adopt them.

Mark is an ordinary sort of bloke - he has a fairly average office job, standard hopes and dreams and a nearly-nice flat with a sort of sea view - well, if you squint. He might be ordinary but Mark is an everyman with a big heart, and when the washed up stranger (Joseph Lindoe) can't remember who he is, has nowhere to go and is too traumatised to speak, Mark takes him in and names him Jack. Mark may be on his own these days, with previous sweetheart Hayley (Nina Bright) having upped sticks to live on the other side of the world but babysitting support comes from boy-next-door Brian (Robert Saunders), who is as camp as Mark is straight. Despite the seemingly very different personalities, the two men are the best of friends.

The initial premise is quite far-fetched and I was acutely aware of this for the first third. However, when three men are squished together on Mark's two-seater couch and Jack slowly puts his feet up on the table, mimicking the other two men's relaxed behaviour and smiles contentedly, suddenly and inexplicably, it works. Mark and Brian are polar opposites. Jack doesn't even speak. But putting the three of them together suddenly feels natural, and you stop caring that they shouldn't be friends in the first place. You warm to all of them, individually and collectively and you want that strange bond to last forever. It clicks. Interference from Mark's crush Kate (Elizabeth Hope) irritates us because by the time we meet her, we're fiercely protective of Jack, the bedraggled, silent incomer having endeared himself to us.

Robert Saunders, Joseph Lindoe and Jack Harding as Brian, Jack and Mark

Photography provided by The Hope Theatre

There are some easy jokes, particularly towards the beginning, with Mark talking at a mute Jack, and Brian very loudly and slowly introducing himself just in case Jack doesn't speak English. Much of the earlier humour derives from the timing - to paraphrase Chandler Bing, "Could it be any more obvious?" However, It's still likeable. And the writing and direction become increasingly strong. The comedy element is the focus, with an especially delicious impromptu rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart making us chuckle, but Adamson also tackles a more emotional side as he begins to tie up the different threads in his story. It's very much a play which grows on you.

As Jack secretly pores through Brian's manuscript, it's reminiscent of NeverEnding Story, and you wonder when the narrative and the action will collide. There's an inevitability to this, but it's still an interesting framing device. Furthermore, the use of calming, classical music disrupted by jarring, techno sounds to convey Jack's fragile but recovering mind is intelligent and works well. We feel as if we don't get all the final details we crave, but on reflection, it's not that Adamson cuts short the action, it's that we're reluctant to let go of the protagonists. We want to see what happens next. And after that.

Found is warm, tender and intriguing. You may scoff at the start, but by the end of the 90-minutes, you'll be utterly gripped by this tale of what happens when a little kindness has wide-reaching and unforeseeable consequences. Just don't try what Mark does at home, kids: probably best not to take any strange men home, they're not all like Jack.

Found opened on 24th March and runs until 11th April 2015 at the Hope Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Highbury & Islington (Overground, Victoria)



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