Not all shows have clarity of meaning or purpose yet they still retain a certain charm. Does it matter what it’s about as long as it’s enjoyable? Horsepower explores a range of subjects, but it also tends in that direction.

It’s all beautifully performed

Let’s start with the title. Apparently, there was a time when the play had a section that made references to horses; they were a fixation of one of the characters, but they have been edited out leaving the appellation redundant and and rather bothersome. But the show must go on.

The opening scene introduces Desmond, who lives to perform cabaret, but he has a multitude of other interests and occupations, which are mentioned in passing though not developed into later material. In the meantime, as part of his act, we are on the receiving end of some questions from the stage and one lucky punter is involved in a fun little activity that is not to be feared and is entertaining, as one might hope.

With his opening gambit done, Desmond disappears and wild-flower-lover, posey-making Wilbert takes over. As this is a solo show these characters are both played by creator and actor Harriet Gandy. It turns out that Desmond is the shadow, maybe even the alter-ego of Wilbert. Thus we have a divided self, one half of which exposes the dark recesses of the other’s mind, layer by layer.

The content of the play goes on to examine issues of growing up, surviving the rants of parents that make for a miserable existence, dealing with shame and gender conformity and coping with society’s expectations. And we have the expectation that the long-awaited guests might actually turn up. Gandy deals with these in a series of scenes on a delightfully busy set that allows for various locations to be established, while a hanging rail carries the costumes required for a series of characters. These intriguing individuals often enter into the realms of the absurd, but what really impresses is the almost poetic story-telling, the absorbing nature of the tales and Gandy’s sensitivity, graceful movements and genteel voice that illustrates how intensity and suspense can be created in the calmest of manners.

It’s all beautifully performed. There’s no mention of a horse, but there is plenty of power.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

On the edge of a breakdown, Wilbert decides to confront the not-so-well-kept secret of his shadow self: Destructive Desmond, a provocative cabaret artist. This darkly absurd tale encapsulates the emergence of the authentic self and questions what is real and what is simply a performance? Inspired by the character in WH Auden’s The Dog Beneath the Skin. This one-person show is edgy in nature, blessed with fervent choreography, excavating layers of raw emotional intelligence throughout.

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