Scaramouche Jones

Tue 13th – Sat 17th December 2011

reviews

Rob Jones

at 02:47 on 16th Dec 2011

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Scaramouche Jones, the acclaimed role once owned by the great Pete Postlethwaite, has been reclaimed and reinterpreted by Alan Coveney, to superb effect.

The production opens as Scaramouche the clown exits his last stage, contemplating suicide on his 100th birthday, Friday 31st December 1999. As a final act he recounts the first 50 years of his life; the 50 years that made him a clown.

Born in 1899, Scaramouche has lived through the foundations of the modern world; empire, world war and the glorious hubris inbetween. The core of his character is Candide-like; as he faces deprivation after humiliation, his fundamental optimism shines through - perhaps naively, perhaps courageously.

The production seems to this reviewer to be particularly well-suited to the cosy 50-person room of the Alma Tavern Theatre. A one-man production like Scaramouche benefits from the intimacy of a confined space, so as to engage each member of the audience with the protagonist. Likewise, set design, lighting and sound effects are particularly noticable when not disguised by a large, busy cast.

Happily, the set is uncluttered and the audials are infrequently used, but to great effect. The lighting, however, deserves special mention. Usually either ignored or taken for granted, the lighting work of Anna Barrett encourages a scene in the way that a great film score improves a fine picture.

Which leads to the perfomance of Coveney. At its core, the play is an 80-minute monologue. To deliver such a behomoth credibly is quite a feat and not for the faint-hearted. It is a marathon to the sprint of most lead roles. In particular, the role of Scaramouche not only demands stamina and the brains to remember one's lines, but also the curious combination of unfettered energy and depressed intensity. Fortunately, Coveney has these in spades.

The success of Scaramouche relies on the actor's ability to walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy. Too much of either and the essence of the clown is distorted. Coveney magnificently balances on this invisible, yet papable line. His faultless performance exudes the confidence of a truly able actor. In fact, this reviewer would go as far as to say that seeing him play Scaramouche, at £9 a pop, is as good a deal that a theatre-goer will find in Bristol.

Miserable sort that I am, I would love to pinpoint a criticism of the production. Sadly, I can't. The direction, under Emel Yilmaz, is sublime. Colveney is mesmorising and well-supported by emotive lighting and an understated set. If there is a fault, I can't find it.

Perhaps the best recommendation would be to tell you that the audience, a great mix of different ages and races of Bristolians, was held, to a man, in rapture by this wonderful tale. I'm not sure what else a play could offer.

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