Risk pays off for lone action man
Farrell Blinks is one deeply disturbed individual. By day, he's a bored, depressed, and dreadfully shy office worker. By night, he's all alone, with only the noisy beggars outside his door, the elderly neighbour upstairs and, of course, his precious video games to keep him company.
So, naturally there's a troubled past to blame for Mr Blinks' various misfortunes in the present, and it all comes pouring out just as soon as our boy receives a mysterious package in the post. But here's the catch -- Man of Valour is a one-man show, with very little dialogue. What's more, there are no props. The package; Farrell's office; his apartment -- all imaginary.
Which means it's up to the sublime Paul Reid to take on an entire cast of wildly exaggerated characters, not to mention their various settings, in order to fill in the blanks. And he does so in a style that's every bit as extraordinary as it is wonderfully chaotic, with a marvellous soundtrack and simple, yet stunningly effective background visuals and lighting to boot.
There are no lengthy monologues. Heck, there's hardly any time to stand still, as the hero of the hour (well, it is a bit of an action story at heart) literally leaps from one scene to the other, all the while battling some very strange demons, too. His father. His co-workers. The poor lad's inability to deal with women. Indeed, it's a hugely inventive production; its various spots of office-related humour and playful sound effects adding some light relief to what soon becomes a very serious tale.
But what really stands out is the speed at which Man of Valour develops. It can't have been easy, taking this most bizarre story of a twenty-something office drone with an extremely vivid imagination, and portraying his entire life through a series of buzzes, clicks, flailing limbs and quirky special effects. Still, it moves so fast that you'd almost miss the flaws. Almost.
Alas, you can't help but wonder if everyone involved might have been a little too ambitious when it came to writing the ending, which just feels a little flat after such an exhausting build-up. Some elements of the script, although commendable for their originality, just feel a little silly. And completely overblown. Especially when Blinks imagines himself diving into a toilet. Or growing a set of wings.
Still, with Reid's charismatic, and often terrifying performance, those involved can rest assured that a significant achievement has been made, nevertheless. What we have in Man of Valour is a risky and, therefore, thrilling piece of contemporary theatre; a wild idea which combines fantasy, reality, and intriguing innovation and thought. It could have been a disaster -- an out and out mess, even. But somehow, it all just about sticks together, making for a rather intense, engaging, and ultimately unique experience. HHHII
Man of Valour runs as part of the Absolut Fringe Festival 2011 until September 24