Last Will and Testament of Henry Van Dyke

Two men, two different approaches to creating a good play. This is what Last Will and Testament of Henry Van Dyke focusses on, as Nathan Wright and Niall Murphy dared to explore a subject that is not often explored on stage – what if it's ok to just create something that doesn't have a dramatic arc? Why not just focus on real, every day occurences with a slight hint to a romantic incident in the past of one of the characters? This is what one of the characters really wanted to achieve in their writing, whilst the other was more of a traditionalist accusing the other of going against the normal approach without doing the proper research involved.

A clever, new take on the popular Shakespearian move of 'a play within the play'

Wright and Murphy had a good relationship on stage as they explored each approach with high energy and vigour and using a simple stage prop of a sofa which was turned around to indicate sitting indoors, then outdoors as they go to the corner shop, the theme that emerged was something relatable that everyone at some point has encountered in numerous ways in life. Starting something, but not finishing it. Murphy's character called Wright out on this particular fact as something he's always done and showed his frustration at the potential risk of losing an audience. But Wright defended this well and played the Ace card of keeping things extremely simple and that it would need to be this way as it would be his first show he had every written. When asked what if it doesn't go down well, his response was done in a matter of fact, yet subtly comic way – "I'll blame it on the director and actors!".

Whilst the comic repartee and writing was extremely well handled, I couldn't help but relate to something Murphy's character had mentioned in the sense of the material being at risk of losing an audience's interest. This was only in the sense of not being entirely sure if the title of Last Will and Testament of Henry Van Dyke was relevant to the piece itself and some audience members could potentially be put off by this. However, having said that, there are subtle connections to it in the sense of writing comic anecdotes down on paper and a couple of references to Wright's character being ill (or not as Murphy pointed out due to earlier actions unseen on stage) and using this type of exploration is a clever, new take on the popular Shakespearian move of 'a play within the play', only brought up to date for a modern audience.

This show was one that challenged everyone's perceptions of theatre and brought a charming, entertaining approach to the story presented.

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Reviews by Sascha Cooper

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Performances

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The Blurb

“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” What do men talk about when left to their own devices? Men who aren’t particularly interested in football or cars, aren’t into gaming, and aren’t very successful with women... In amongst exchanging anecdotes and insults, they might get around to discussing and planning a play. The play might even be good. If only they could agree on what story to tell and how to tell it. After all, why not? An exciting play from Karrim Jalali for anyone who has ever yearned to create or imagine.

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