More Heat than light: an ache for simplicity

More Heat than light: an ache for simplicity

'Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records' Act I, Scene V, Hamlet

This brilliant one man show, starring the talented and charismatic actor Ashley Hodgson, explores how history and in this case Alex’s own family’s past, informs and shapes who we are in the present. The intimate setting of his late grandparents’ sitting room where books lie scattered, old portraits and paintings hang from the walls and cosy armchairs yearn to be slouched in, succeeds in drawing the audience in to what is a wonderfully nostalgic space. 

The play begins with Alex sitting on the floor of his grandparents’ living room, clearly deep in thought, while evocative music hums from a dusty record player. Original music plays a significant part in this play as we witness Alex using it throughout as a tool to help describe and unfold his various feelings and moods – an ingenious addition.  Alex fluctuates between conveying the history of his deceased family- cleverly through an old montage of photos on the wall- and giving a humorous yet raw analysis of his life in the present day. Hodgson’s ability to act out the various characters he depicts, from the pompous and old-fashioned great grandfather Vincent to the drunken fool of Uncle David, allows the audience to get a vivid sense of the relatives he describes and an insight into his family life.

The 'talented and charismatic' Ashley Hodgson as Alex

The 'talented and charismatic' Ashley Hodgson as Alex

We learn about halfway through the play that it is set on the day of his grandmother’s funeral, which provides explanation for the reminiscent tone. A repeatedly striking addition to the play occurs when the incessant modern day sound of the mobile phone, ringing as his mother frequently intervenes to ask his whereabouts, contrasts distinctly with the antique setting within which the audience is situated. The ringing invades the space, echoing Alex’s feelings of how his present existence has become increasingly bleak due to his horrendous uncle.  Alex therefore references the decaying memories of the past and his collapsed romantic relationship with Mia.

The theme that pervades this play is an ache for simplicity of life. The one man show works well with the demands of the intimate setting of The Room Above Theatre, succeeding in engaging the audience most effectively. It is a moving piece filled with anger, reflection and humour and the random order of these emotions, as they appear, makes it wonderfully honest and real. The play ends as it begins as we return to that same vision of Alex, sitting hunched up on the floor, listening to a meaningful record, his sense of self lost as the history which surrounds him progressively fades. A magnificent one hour play packed full of passionate emotion - definitely worth a watch.

****

Four Stars

 

Laura Fowler-Watt, Classics Student