A Very Very Very Dark Matter
You enter the theatre to a box swinging like a pendulum across the stage. As the play starts you learn the box contains a pygmy lady who’s kept captive there by Hans Christen Anderson who takes credit for her work. This quickly becomes apparent when he’s giving a reading of ‘The Little Mermaid’ as he can’t read certain words and clearly is unaware of how it progresses.
The main action takes place in the attic where the box is kept which is adorned with several macabre marionettes and this dark unsettling interior sets the tone of the play. Throughout it’s clear that Hans Christian Anderson takes great delight in the power he has over his prisoner having removed her foot and letting her out only if he can make her box smaller. It is however a twisted relationship and in some ways it seems as if she is in control.
The plot is bizarre to say the least. It is a far cry from three Billboards and I have an image of Martin McDonagh taking several drugs before sitting down to write this. Hans Christian Anderson, taking credit for the work of a time travelling (that’s right) Congolese pygmy lady he keeps locked in the attic who’s being chased by some dead soldiers, heads to see Charles Dickens as he’s heard he also has a pygmy lady writing his novels. It actually ties together very neatly but it takes some imaginative leaps to get there.
The plays strength though lies not in the plot but in the script and the relationships it describes. While disturbing in many parts it has a lot of humor in it, in particular the scenes with Charles Dickens and his wife. Who is not going to enjoy a foul-mouthed Dickens having his philandering described by his foul-mouthed wife in front of their foul-mouthed children?
Testament to the writing is the fact that while the lead is a despicable person you warm to him throughout the play as he seems more like a bumbling idiot where his actions aren’t out of malice, he’s merely unaware of anything he’s doing wrong. Jim Broadbent is superbly cast and delivers a pitch perfect performance capturing the right amount of childish exuberance.
While there will be people who do not like this show, through a bizarre plot there is a darkly funny play which many will find hard to resist. I wouldn’t classify it as a must see, however if you get the opportunity before it closes in January I would recommend it.
This gets 4(/5) Laura Michelle Kellys.