Oh Yes I Am, at the Bread and Roses Theatre, is a musical comedyset in a retirement home for actors. It is here where we are introduced to our protagonist of the evening, Hector Hanley, OBE (Kevin West).
The show brilliantly keeps you on the edge of your seat
Hector is a national treasure from the world of pantomime, now recalling his tales in his institutional care home to an imaginary audience. Suffering from dementia, Hector highlights the highs and lows of the life he has lived, taking us through his childhood, romantic interests, becoming a famous pantomime dame and the trials and tribulations from his adolescence to now. Accompanied by his ”enthused” carer (Sam Dania), it is apparent that Hector is engrossed with his recollections as he struggles to make sense of the reality around him.
Written by Mike Stocks & James Cleeve and directed by Mike Stocks, Oh Yes I Am is a witty and emotional musical with a clever balance of light and shade that follows Hector through his journey of reality and memories. Thes are blended with the addition of original musical numbers that perfectly play into the pantomime-esque behaviors of Hector's life and career. The show brilliantly keeps you on the edge of your seat with the unplanned chaos of where each story takes you. That is, if you could finish a story without Hector being interrupted by the world around him.
Throughout Hector’s tales, we are introduced to several different characters, from his mother and father to his agent, cousin and lover; all unique individuals with different styles and personalities and yet all played by one actor. Sam Dania must be commended for his dedication to each portrayal. Dania performs with such realism and intent that as we follow Hector’s stories, the memories are further brought to life with Dania by his side. Oh Yes I Am really brings to light the talent of Sam Dania and proves that you don’t alway need to have a large ensemble but just the right actors to play the parts of many.
Kevin West is the epitome of a great actor for not only being able to keep us in the palm of his hand throughout the performance but for the respect he gives to playing a character with dementia. For many, this portrayal may have felt close to the bone. Perhaps many people may not have seen Hector on stage but instead they saw their friends, family and any other loved ones who have been affected by this illness. The dedication to his character was flawless and switching between his older and younger self was an excellent performance that moved the story along so smoothly.
The production focuses on key elements of love and loss. From Hector’s estranged relationship with his father, to the death of his mother. It is clear from the onset that Hector only wants to do well and achieve greatness. As Hector struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, we see him rise from the ashes of rejection to fame and stardom within the pantomime world. Along the way he creates friends out of enemies and a lover out of his friends.
Oh Yes, I Am sparks, feelings of joy, even in the moments of sadness. Both of the actors on stage knew exactly how to make every scene feel like a personal memory; from the conviction brought forward by Hector and his struggle with dementia to the versatility of Sam Dania who played several different characters throughout. You could really feel the ebb and flow between both actors come across with such grace and professionalism. It was as if I were part of Hector’s family, trying to make sense of how to help him but feeling lost when I couldn't.
If this performance has taught me anything, it is to be kind, reach out and value friendships and loved ones and above all else to let life be your pantomime, always fun and never too serious and above all else to remember that the show must go on.