A cynic would suggest that a one-man show written and performed by an acclaimed director is one likely to fall into certain pitfalls; history is littered with those who have stepped nobly out from the chair or from behind the camera to disastrous effect. It is pleasing to report that in the most part, these are avoided in this thoughtful and heart-tweaking, if rather routine production.
Morning tells the story of a man losing his wife and gaining a child, whilst Afternoon is another man who ran away from home as a boy and is now longing to return home. Both are extensively detailed and both, via the modicum of a minute long interval, are performed single-handedly by the aforementioned acclaimed director Andy Hinds, artistic director of Classic Stage Ireland. Indeed, perhaps ‘told’ rather than 'performed' is more accurate, as this performance resembles classical storytelling as much as theatre, Hinds unravelling both narratives largely in exposition.
In the program of Morning and Afternoon, said plays are listed as ‘subtly interlocking’, but this is perhaps ambitious as the actual link between them is fairly brazen, and so is the style, that of wandering discussion that focuses in on sentimental details with a lucid and lubricated prose. This florid writing at its best brings a heartfelt delicacy which Hinds draws along with poise. However, at its more meandering it does tempt a certain verbosity which lures the only trap that Morning and Afternoon does venture a foot in: its bloated length.
It is an increasingly tired cliché to suggest that Fringe audience’s cannot handle a performance over an hour (Morning and Afternoon extends to a stretched but not bulbous hour-twenty). However, when a performance is essentially an extensive monologue the pace and pauses, coupled with a physical performance so still it verged on statuesque and was only cracked by erratic and somewhat pre-meditated directed movement, does certainly stretch. Also contributing were the judicious and theatrically pregnant pauses. Whilst this suggests that the play needed more tonal alterations, the forays from introspection to fierce protrusion were its weaker elements, the exertion robbing the lines of their ornate quality. It is not exact length but instead the sense of length the slow expulsion brings.
The technical work was also somewhat strange; lights cross-faded at points that were presumably intended to mark distinct narrative shifts but were both a little ill-timed (potentially due to Hinds’ jolting movements) and not distinctive enough to really render a new state.
This should all be countered with the reassurance that it is by no means ‘a bad’ production: Hinds is a capable performer, understated but gently tragic and with a very elucidatory turn of facial expression. Much of the story is moving, some to the extreme, Morning with a sad grace and Afternoon with a fierce bristle. However it is the more prosaic section which obscure such elements and is only in flickers that these emotional tenterhooks snare.