Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame

This show was difficult to review. The label ‘one-man show’ doesn’t feel as though it quite covers everything on offer in this innovative and potentially searching production. Ernie Silva presents his life to date using music, dance, comedy and impersonation to shock, delight and charm us. He talks of inspiration, finding it in previously uncool sources – Priam and Kerouac are mentioned – and lending it a kind of street-cred in the way that Indie kids these days make big glasses and grandma jumpers the next big thing.As a performance, this nears perfection. There is a superb variety of register. The sheer linguistic genius and command of language at Silva’s hands is engrossing. Highly effective use of a smooth, swift turn is made to switch between characters, episodes and forms of address. Archetypes and individuals are taken off superbly, with great humour.Silva’s tale is unrealistic; doubtless the events are loosely true, but I suspect they are highly dramatised and insincere. It all feels a bit like a film, such is the use of light and noise.I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about this show that I didn’t like and made me feel uneasy. I couldn’t always focus and was shifting about in my seat. The show should have been moving, but wasn’t: perhaps it was the actor’s arrogance. Likeability is a strong factor in entertainment and I don’t feel that any link was established between actor and audience. A vague attempt to create empathy is seen in the revelation of Silva’s naming of his guitar (Savannah), but is of no consequence. The writing is geared too much towards painting him as a pioneering, grass roots hero. Argumentum ad absurdum and ranting black humour features heavily.There are flashes of genuine philosophical brilliance in Silva’s musings, pondering the nature of knowledge and questioning what is really valuable in different contexts, but too much of it feels like haranguing; bemoaning his own experiences and holding us accountable for it. He seems to shun his past, which doesn’t endear him to us any more. When he comes full circle, realising (in true American style) that he needs to listen to his own voice, it’s clever but predictable.If possible, the material here was too polished, intellectual and funny. It gets under your skin. Perhaps it went beyond five stars and bounced back. Go and catch it if you like the kind of thing that rich, middle-class white businessmen love to see and rate by way of ‘keeping it real’.

Reviews by Fen Greatley

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The Blurb

Brooklyn street kid meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in this uplifting, sometimes hilarious, sometimes harsh, but always universally human autobiographical award-winning one man show. ‘Silva is a charismatic talent’ (LA Weekly).

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