Steven Berkoff and Jay Benedict flamboyantly meander across the minimalist stage and poetically begin to explore the theatrical world. John, played by Berkoff, has recently finished writing his first play and, after receiving ostensibly negative reviews, provides the catalyst for a discussion on the pains and virtues of acting, directing and writing. Andree Bernard, who sensually portrays a frustrated understudy, joins the two mellifluous actors and each take turn in describing the nature of their craft.
An Actor’s Lament is written in verse and the rhythm of the language is a pleasure to hear. Indeed, Berkoff’s decision to reinvigorate a form of writing rarely used in contemporary theatre is at once fitting to the subject matter of the play - which occasionally weaves in and out of Shakespearian dialogue - and well suited to the elaborate nature of his characters who express its sentiments. Yet it felt at times as if the three characters were more a mouthpiece for reflection as opposed to authentic creations with a personal narrative to convey.
For those in the audience well accustomed to theatrical practice, Berkoff’s play will no doubt come across as a witty and reminiscent depiction of what occurs both on and off the stage. Still I wonder whether, beneath the exquisite language, one would leave the theatre with a new, startling insight into an actor or writer’s life. Whilst others, perhaps, who haven’t previously been exposed to this world of waiting in the wings or resurrecting protagonists from centuries ago, may feel a little isolated by the esoteric restrictions of the dialogue and long for an adjacent narrative, in which they can invest.
Having said that, the physicality of the show, the way in which each of the characters could immediately paint an atmosphere on an empty stage with graceful energy and depict the act of smoking, drinking or shagging, is certainly a feat to behold. This, combined with the lucid, well-crafted poetry of the text, is reason enough to attend and witness this spectacle for yourself.