For a one-man play, Enda Walsh’s
A powerful examination of community, kindness and the line between faith and sanity.
Thomas Campbell plays Thomas Magill, a small-town Irish misfit who carries with him the burning desire to clean Inishfree of sin. He believes he has been directly touched by God, and goes about the town on his mission. Superficially affable and harmless, Magill is slowly revealed to be a mentally unhinged, dangerous fanatic. In the intimacy of C Primo, we increasingly get the sense that we are trapped inside Magill’s head.
This play is, on a background level, about Ireland; a fact that is quickly acknowledged by the conscious debt owed to Krapp’s Last Tape, the work of fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. In a dirty, derelict space, Magill obsessively relives and replays a day from his past with the use of tape recorders – like Krapp – and stage props; the day is constructed from fragments of speech he has recorded from the townspeople of Inishfree alongside a series of character portraits enacted live. Campbell is deft in his use of roleplay and sound recordings, working both seamlessly into his performance – he keeps us guessing as to whether the props and characters have been deliberately curated by Magill in his telling of the story or whether they are the tools by which Walsh the playwright’s drama is told.
Campbell is, to be sure, a virtuosic performer. He seems to be everywhere at once, effortlessly shifting between moods and characters, straining against the boundaries of his disturbed mind. Particularly effective – and no doubt a product of his collaboration with director Kate Gaul – is the slow pace with which he lets the audience in on the play’s darkness. There are sinister overtones early in the drama but the extent of the madness that grips his character Magill is hidden for as long as possible. This is complemented by genuinely sad and pitiful moments, such as a scene where Magill sits by his father’s grave – a man very present in the story through his absence – and says the simple ‘I really miss you Daddy’. Enhancing Campbell’s delivery of the play, the space is exploited inventively. Much is made of hidden nooks and crannies, and the technical effects hit the right balance between simplicity and volume.
Always teetering on the edge of violence, Misterman is a powerful examination of community, kindness and the line between faith and sanity.