One of the fallacies which dogs much of fringe theatre is that the phrase "trained in Paris with Jacques Lecoq" still functions as a guarantee of quality. In recent years, Lecoq alumni have grown so ubiquitous that it is almost more surprising to find a show which does not include a graduate.
Their ranks include all four performers and the director of Hoipolloi's latest production Honestly, which makes for 70 agreeable if hardly earth-shattering minutes. It suffers from the problem common to many devised shows: having determined a subject and even settled upon a plot of sorts, it nevertheless remains devoid of a real sense of purpose.
Honestly is set in a bewildering apartment block which not only exhibits the common symptoms of depersonalisation and lack of community (as inhabitants lead their own lives in almost complete isolation from their neighbours), but seems threateningly labyrinthine in itself. As new tenant Paul (Shôn Dale Jones) searches for his flat he encounters a couple playing sex games, a moral-crusading nutter and a lonely nerd as well as a go-getting salesman, the menacing landlord and the grotesque concierge.
Although billed as "a maniacal comedy" and peppered with comic business, the general mood of the piece moves from a banal but worrying voyeurism reminiscent of Roman Polanski's Repulsion into unmistakable Kafka territory; there are even overtones of H.P. Lovecraft, as the very layout of the building seems to alter so as to prevent Paul from ever finding Apartment 173.
On a set consisting of a couple of rolls of carpet and three columns which function as doors, walls or stairwells according to need, Dale Jones wanders around in increasing frenzy whilst Stefanie Müller, Gaëtan Schmid and Jason Turner play their ever more cracked multiple roles around him. The emotional and intellectual observations on such a lifestyle which underlie the work are little more than truisms, and the resultant show is adequate if thin – your life would not be immeasurably impoverished for missing it.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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