Gate Theatre, London W11
Opened 21 June, 1994

It's so obvious it must have been done before. "One man's obsession with love, revenge and Robert De Niro" proclaims the programme to Snarling Beasties' one-man show, and that about sums it up.

Mark Kilmurry's protagonist Charlie is a brooding sociopath with only two things on his mind Bobby D. and the angelic Marie, who first comes to his notice precisely because she so reminds him of Travis Bickle's "angel" Iris in Taxi Driver. The play takes the form of a dictated letter to De Niro, which jumps with the speed of Charlie's disordered thoughts from disturbed idolatry to psychotic personal history. Details of Marie's disenchantment with endless evenings in the cinema and Charlie's violent, jealous retribution are jostled by paeans to Scorsese movies, even to the extent of a line-for-line re-enactment of a duologue from Raging Bull in which Kilmurry shows off a mean De Niro impersonation and an even better Joe Pesci.

Kilmurry's first-division talents as a mime artist are put to full use, be it fiddling with an imaginary cigarette lighter or being beaten up in slow motion. Yet his physical presence is indefinably less substantial here than in his performances of Debbie Isitt's plays for the same company. He evokes the banality of obsessives' lives in all other respects than the obsession itself; Charlie is a shambling nobody out of the Mark Chapman mould, except when fired by a recollection of King Of Comedy or Cape Fear.
Over a short 50 minutes reality and fantasy merge as is their theatrical wont until a succession of alternative endings leave one uncertain how many of the preceding events actually took place outside Charlie's febrile imagination. But Kilmurry demonstrates that, as a writer, he can fashion a world almost as dark in its own way as any of Isitt's more nightmarish creations. One Shot plays by way of preview for its stint on the Edinburgh Fringe, where it will no doubt attract enough attention to warrant a return trip to London.

Oh, and yes after a prologue delivered in darkness, the first words of the play proper are "You talkin' to me?"

Written for the London Evening Standard.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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