Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Here Lies Henry

Camden People's Theatre, London


Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Jason Langley

A 70 minute bare stage monologue, punctuated only by lighting changes and occasional penile projections, Here Lies Henry is a glimpse into one man's mind, desires and frustrations. Framed around the writings of Nietzsche, the focus of the work is around the eight different kinds of lies that together add to human knowledge. The acting is breathtaking and passionate throughout, but MacIvor’s text is only sometimes profound and often, introspectively pretentious. The billboards proclaim that “you will laugh and cry”. They omit to mention that you may also yawn (or even sleep, as those unfortunates seated in the baking upper tiers of the tiny venue, were heard to confess as the show ended)

First produced nearly twenty years ago, this little known play's programme notes suggest that over the years Here Lies Henry has been described as an enigma and as an explanation of the existence and purpose of the one-person play. This conceit is misplaced, for whilst one-person arcs can indeed be stunning, (Beckett's work in particular was masterful), the overall sensation of Here Lies Henry is one of a relentless rant, rather than revelation. Sure, there are moments along the scripted tirade that do make one pause and reflect but little more than that. Text updates pay a rather sensational nod to Jimmy Savile's crimes, which prove more of a momentary distraction rather than the contemporary freshening up that the creators intend. And whilst one has no choice but to listen to Henry's observations, it is hard to truly care about them.

The production is unquestionably a tour de force from actor Matthew Hyde who merits a deserved nod for his work. There can be few harder working actors on the London stage today and notwithstanding a tendency to Nietzschean navel-gaze, if Here Lies Henry serves only as a springboard to this remarkable actor's career, then it will have achieved some good.

Runs until 14th June 2014

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