THE PYRAMID TEXTS
The DOOR, The REP, Birmingham, Tuesday 26th May, 2015
This one-man piece written by Geoff Thompson concerns a former boxer, now a trainer, with a message to send. He sets up a camcorder on a tripod and this becomes the focus of his attention and delivery throughout the piece. It as though we are eavesdropping, rather than being addressed directly. He says he wanted to write a letter, an important letter, and so he went to a shop to buy the best paper and the best pen but was advised by the shop assistant that he’d be better off putting his feelings on camera – unlikely, unless she was also selling camcorders, but I’ll let that go – His face, she told him, says more than words.
That face is the familiar and famous face of Christopher Fairbank, known for countless appearances on the big and little screen. You may not know his name but you will have seen him in many things. He delivers a charismatic and captivating performance in what turns out to be a very wordy and complex piece. I find his eloquence does not match his professed inability to put his words on paper – he sounds more like a writer than a boxer (no reason, of course, why he can’t be both) and he seems too at ease with the camera, as if he’s recording the latest in a long line of vlogs rather than attempting to deliver the message that has been burning inside him for years. Better, I think, to see him awkward and fumble initially before finding his voice, rather than pontificating about the nobility of the sport he made his profession. It comes across as storytelling rather than a character revealing himself.
Gradually, it emerges who he’s talking to and what he has to say (I’m trying not to spoil it) and, by the end, when we learn why the play has the title it has, Fairbank is packing quite an emotional punch, a roundhouse right to the heart.
Thompson’s script is well-structured and has lyrical qualities but I think it’s a little over-written and a little too clever. Director Michael Vale somehow manages to avoid the ‘action’ being stilted and static (it is, after all, a bloke on a stool addressing a camera) by keeping our focus on Fairbank and his haggard, human face. You leave the studio moved but it’s been a bit of a slog to get there rather than a knockout punch.