Weird. The word that dominated my mind as I wandered out of the theatre in a daze. Run The Beast Down was a one man performance accompanied by a live electronic score, performed by Chris Bartholomew. This new play by Titas Halder, starring Ben Aldridge tells a story of Charlie’s struggle with insomnia, fuelled by a chaotic break-up, a council flat, and the loss of his job. Halder’s play encapsulates a person’s experience living in the UK at a time of economic despair.
The thing deserving of the most praise is the text itself. Halder beautifully utilises the lyricism of language in order to create a wonderfully sensory experience. When Charlie (Aldridge) described a “steaming hot cup of tea”, I swear I could almost taste it. This had quite the opposite but equally powerful effect at the end of the play when he illustrated the murder of a fox; the sensory word choice left me grimacing and squirming in my seat.
What I admired about this performance was the lack of ‘stuff’. Staged on a square, black platform, the only prop was a white stick of chalk that Aldridge used to write titles like, ‘Peter is dead’ directly onto the stage; giving the performance an episodic form. The bareness of the production allowed for an extension of emotion, that can often be masked by excessive set and props. Aldridge’s performance came completely from within; it was clear that the audience were dangling off his every word. He was able to create believable characters purely through a careful variation of voice. Furthermore, the set was almost non-existent. This was no challenge for Aldridge, who employed his physicality to enhance the power of storytelling in a way that enabled the audience to identify with Charlie. A moment when he ran around the tiny stage, pressing his hands up against an imaginary glass wall, created such a strong image that additional staging was rendered unnecessary.
My only qualm with the piece is the poor execution of metaphor. Charlie discussed at length his personal vendetta against an urban fox. It was unclear whether this ‘fox’ was literal, or whether it was a sly hint at the business world, or the creeping economical problems of 2007. Descriptions of Charlie’s ‘ginger’ friend, and other subtle references suggested to me that the ‘fox’ was merely a metaphor for something deeper, perhaps something which existed only in Charlie’s mind. I anticipated a ‘lightbulb moment’ in this bizarre tale, yet when Aldridge uttered his closing line, I felt underwhelmed. I could not identify with what the piece was saying. Why did they want me to watch?
While The Marlowe Theatre created a ruthlessly accurate depiction of life in England at times of hardship, the essence of the piece was lost among a pitiful attempt to develop an extensive metaphor, which left me bewildered. Nevertheless, credit must be given to the aestheticism of the production, which provided a window to the soul in an organic, gritty space.