By Susanna Mulvihill
You might be forgiven for missing the Spoken Word section in this year’s Fringe Programme, given how few pages it comprises. However there are a few very interesting sounding shows in there, including this Free Fringe offering from Will Pickvance and Jonny Hartley. Best described as a dialogue with musical accompaniment, it is the story of one man’s reaction at hearing of the death of an acquaintance. Hartley and Pickvance attempt to explore the range of emotions associated with berevement: what the expected response is, sadness, morbid delight at knowing the news and a ‘Death Frisson’ – a kind of pleasure at examining ones relationship with the deceased.
The storytelling is left to Hartley while Pickvance playes the part of a composer being commissioned to write a requiem for Todd, an English teacher latterly of Barcelona who is the deceased acquaintance. We are taken through four ‘levels’ of requiems, from level 1 (at no extra cost, which comprises of minor triads) to level 4 (most expensive, and includes modulations and thematic devices). This piece lies somewhere between a play and storytelling, never quite settling into one or the other. With Pickvance seated behind a piano facing the audience Hartley stands behind a microphone giving us a narration akin to a 1940s Film Noir voice-over with a script full of similies, metaphors and ‘Maybe’s. He clutches the microphone with both hands, obscuring his face so his expressions are lost and he denies himself the opportunity to lift his flat delivery with complimentary gestures. You get the impression that his Bogart-style of speech would be better presented if he were sitting down at the foot of the piano, either without a microphone or with the microphone positioned lower down. This might have also clarified the position of the audience, as it wasn’t obvious whether the majority of the discourse was aimed at the crowd or if there was a fourth wall. Pickvance’s score is solid and displays his adeptness at the piano admirably, a highlight being the number “That Was Todd”, written in the style of a Sondheim musical.
All in all, there were a lot of good ideas in here but the show lacked direction and the script needed editing. The music was excellent but the two failed to really marry the accompaniment with the dialogue. However, with a few tweaks this has potential to be an intelligent, thought-provoking piece, and at forty minutes is a good stop-gap between shows.