In a play with so many shifts between characters, the costumes and set are perfect blank slates to allow for optimum adaptability.
Steven Duffy, playing the titular Hector, is faced with a difficult role. The characterisation of this real- life man is one of total devotion to a very structured lifestyle, one that does not afford much room for humour, frivolity or indeed much emotion whatsoever. However, in a story that hinges, particularly in regard to the ending, on empathising with Hector, Duffy unfortunately fails to lend the humanity to him that would allow the audience to do so. The performance is thoroughly wooden, substituting shouting for a true portrayal of passion and “looking off into the distance” for a true portrayal of love. Duffy is unable to depict any subtlety or vulnerability that would make his character emotionally accessible for the audience.
This may not seem like such an issue if it weren’t for the striking disparity between himself and the supporting cast. The other five members all demonstrate spectacular skill in creating unique and memorable roles of their doubled up characters. Particularly worth a mention are Raj Ghatak, who weaves between three distinct characters seamlessly and artfully, and Stevie Hannan, who radiates such charm in his role of Governor Ridgeway that his reprehensible actions seem understandable.
In a play with so many shifts between characters, the costumes and set are perfect blank slates to allow for optimum adaptability. Every actor has a base of neutral coloured clothing which they can add or remove from, as needed for each of their characters. The ease of these transitions, both of the onstage costume changes and set changes, is notable in its unobtrusiveness, while the sound design by Pippa Murphy turns changeovers into enjoyable additions to the ambiance. The only complaint to these is that the sound was needlessly loud, but that is a small technicality that quite easily may have been unique to the November 6th performance.
This tale, rooted in the turn of the 20th century, nevertheless provides a jarring reflection on just how this could occur in the present day. Despite the stilted inexpressiveness of Duffy, the combination of skilful acting from the supporting cast, the expert design, and the undeniably fascinating story makes Hector a worthwhile viewing experience.