Based on Sherwood Anderson’s short story, this play for Camden’s Fringe Festival tells the tale of a man who lives in a world he created in his head. It begins with an elusive man addressing the audience and giving us a poetic introduction to the story. As Richard, the older character comes on stage he becomes consumed by whispering voices and eerie sounds. He gradually calms down and opens a letter which brings the characters of David and Jack to life as they converse across the stage and thus begins the illusory world.
Jagoda Kamov’s writing has moments of eloquence and a particularly engaging scene between Jack and the nurse. The motifs of the windows and of the trees gave it a poetic feel and communicated Richard’s desperation to hold onto his illusions, as mirrored by Hardy Gru’s innovative, haunting set design. Richard would say things that were later echoed by his characters or vice versa and it made you wonder who said it first and whether he was reliving memories or creating stories based off of snippets of his own life. Kamov effectively created mystery and intrigue, but the plot was confusing and a lack of back story to some of the characters made it hard to follow and understand. I liked the fact that there was a relatively happy ending but too much was left unclear and unexplained. I still can’t work out the relation between the three men or whether they were the same person.
Takatusna Mukai had an air of mystery as the storyteller/ doctor. Adam Trusell gave a vivid portrayal of Jack as a free spirited, impulsive musician. Sam Perry’s character David had less of an identity but seemed to be the embodiment of angst, frustration and bitterness which he did excellently. Michael Polino played the eponymous Dumb Man, Richard who for most of the play is dithering and distracted with a few moments of lucidity in his interactions with imaginary characters. Polino conveyed this contrast well, but he could’ve expressed more anger and terror when his illusions were threatened. Lana Helena Hulenic’s Anne was the stereotypical whimsical, suffering woman and whilst she was highly expressive, I thought her performance might have been more effective if it was subtler.
Kamov’s trance-like play is worth a watch, and anyone would be able to find something to relate to in terms of the illusions and realities of their own lives.
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 6th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★