Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness!

People Zoo present their new production Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness! at Hope Mill.  Previous production The Trial wowed Manchester and ended up at PUSH2017.  This play, written in 2002 by Anthony Neilson, is very different, offering new challenges and opportunities.  As we enter the space at Hope Mill, the small red circular stage sits ‘in the round’, lit by six small lights, simply evoking the intimate spectacle of the travelling show.

It’s hard to say exactly what this play is about.  Is it about holding on to moments of love, because in the end we’ll all be lonely?  Does it tell us that by saving someone we’ll always seek to enslave them?  Or is it just a surreal, slightly absurd, freak show of the mind, seeking to explore some of the darker corners of our musings?  Unusually for a piece of theatre I found myself smiling all the way through.  There is a wry, knowing humour that permeates the play.

The play uses the vehicle of a Victorian freakshow whose four members recreate three ‘tales of loneliness’.  First, a woman is able to squeeze pearls from her pock marked face; her beautiful sister profits, but in the end it is this woman who has to deal with the memory of the wealthy suitor.  Second, a man wants to forget his dead wife because he loved her too much to bear the memory; he goes to the Himalayas for a cure.  Third, a teddy bear asks a man to make him an imaginary tea and cake.

Simply staged but with effective costumes and papier-mâché props the cast convincingly work the tricky actor-plays-Victorian-actor-plays-story-character dynamic.  There’s a lovely feel to the production that seems consistent with the fine line between professionalism and chaos that one imagines of the Victorian freak show.  Above all, the stories are well told and this is a production that engages you throughout.

Hope Mill Manchester, 10-14 October 2017.

photo credit: Tom Barker

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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