One Board Man is one of the most unique shows I have ever seen. The show is unpredictable by nature, as the material is fully improvised by John Gallagher, so each performance will be completely novel. Gallagher begins drawing a nervous-looking audience member, and asks for his profession and an emotion. The following 45 minute performance is impressively created from just this.
quite often, the small audience either seemed rather uncomfortable or bemused by the show
Gallagher interacts with the hand drawn character, who is a failing lead guitarist in a band called Shit Noodles Incorporated, and sets the scene with spoken asides where he describes what he sees in his imaginary board world. This imaginative element allows for some absurd and amusing situations. One character is a music producer who tries to entice a young band member into taking creatively inspiring drugs by pressing a big red button which reveals a gigantic gold record spinning in the air above his studio.
Gallagher manages to create characters who develop a narrative with structure and a climax from such little material. It is genuinely remarkable. The improvised musical accompaniment from pianist Mike Fish, adds another interesting dimension to the performance, and adds emotional depth to the relationships between Gallagher and his board co-stars.
Quite often, the small audience either seemed rather uncomfortable or bemused by the show, as it does require the audience to use their imagination quite often. There is a flashback scene where two of the board characters interact with each other where Gallagher does not say a word for a good 30 seconds. The audience here have to actively imagine what the characters could be saying to one another. This may feel uncomfortable for an audience who are used to more structured performances, but that is part of the appeal of improvised theatre.
One Board Man is, without a doubt, a very unusual show and a strange experience. But despite everything, it is one which I thoroughly enjoyed.