Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Clerk that wouldn't Sink, The Graves that would not hold...



Mixing the familiar patter of street slang with fluid rhyming couplets, 'Two Graves' is exquisitely structured. It captures sordid detail and doomed enthusiasm, never allowing the pace to slacken.
Two Graves is a monologue exploring the corrosive power of vengeance, set in a London underworld fueled by illegal gambling and violence. Paul Sellar's forceful script dances through back-room darts' tournaments, fixed horse-races and murderous despair: Jonathan Moore's performance is remarkable for its lack of movement. He recites the extended poem from a chair, transfixing the audience with a vicious stare and harsh delivery.

Mixing the familiar patter of street slang with fluid rhyming couplets, 'Two Graves' is exquisitely structured. It captures sordid detail and doomed enthusiasm, never allowing the pace to slacken.

From the barest bones of a predictable plot- a young man sucked gradually into a sinister East End- Sellar's rhymes evoke the excitement of dubious sports and gangster turf wars. Moore manages to bring out the abject misery of his protagonist's situation, and the suggestive soundtrack heightens the tension.

If the finale is unoriginal, and the characters owe a great deal to the cliches of British gangster cinema, this remains ferocious, arresting theatre, made all the more potent by its lack of props, set and theatrical devices.


Working as a series of excellent sketches and a coherent narrative, the play brusquely reaches a conclusion that is ambiguously hopeful.

The Unsinkable Clerk gathers together fragments of the Old Testament, a stereotypical officer-worker
and pagan sea-gods into a modern parable, charting the redemption of an ordinary man through an extraordinary adventure. The two actors take on a huge variety of roles, from a decrepit Poseidon through to the prophet Jonah, using mime, imagination and crisp dialogue. The story is simple- a clerk finds his routine of quiet conformity and emotional repression disrupted by the intrusion of a magical flood, and struggles to find paradise. It is told with charm and surreal cartoon humour.

Both playful and resonant, The Unsinkable Clerk sees the hero, Mr Pumley, enticed and tormented by visions of pleasure and desire, sustained by his love for a shop-girl and his companion Jonah. Much of the laughter comes from the people that Mr Plumley encounters, and the actors leap between roles with ease and alacrity, fleshing out characters in deft gestures. Working as a series of excellent sketches and a coherent narrative, the play brusquely reaches a conclusion that is ambiguously hopeful.

The script is tight and literary; the performances assured. The dynamic use of minimal props and set encourages suspension of disbelief. Although it lacks an epic scale, this is an excellent,immediate and profound show: deep but not heavy, witty but not relying on cheap gags.

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