Only In Body : : Seen

The premise is this: Marin, a young musician with a major label contract, is not shifting records. Encouraged to do some visual art as a publicity stunt, Marin is amused by the potential of mixing up a swastika and a tiki - deciding to stencil up lots of little tikis in the shape of a swastika (swastiki!). No one else finds it the least bit hilarious, and suddenly his recording contract is in jeopardy, and he is getting death threats. Passive aggressive, young, a bit stupid, and just a tad racist - though accepting of it; if only he wasn’t a musician, he could do/say stupid things without anyone taking notice. But, he has a public profile, and like other young artists who have come to grief on the rocks of social media, he can’t.

 

The play is very current, and is as critical of the symbiotic relationship between traditional media and public relations - in the pursuit of profit, as it is of new media with its over-hysterical witch hunts. Marin is not particularly engaging as a character – impulsive, selfish, and most damning, very willing to waste people’s time; but, one can relate to his finding an adult life very tricky, navigating the adult world as if he has no agency. ‘Just go to Berlin’, you want to shout from within the audience. You don’t have to wait to be sacked; just hand in your notice. He is rebelling against a cage that isn’t actually there, except in his head – and yet, don’t so many of us do that ourselves?

 

The actors are very good, naturalistic, and well-cast, particularly Nicci Reuben, who has the requisite slightly magical ability to transform herself into a role. Set and lighting do their job of setting the scene clearly, and writer/director Peter Hibberdine clearly has an ear for dialogue, though the pace is a little slow. The plot progression is rather limited, too. Hibberdine has surrounded himself with very competent people – but the danger of directing a show that you have written, is that your vision will never quite be realised by the creative team, and few ideas will be raised from anyone else - let alone included - which can mean, as it does here, the whole production is less than the sum of its parts.

 

By Peter Hibberdine

At the Musgrove Theatre until 27 November

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