Ozymandias

Interviewed by Broadway Baby, Hugh Train explained how Ozymandias was generated through free writing around the words of Shelley’s poem until eventually the “nonsensical ramblings” which are to be found in abundance, “morphed into the show”.

This is the absurdist of the absurd.

As the monologue opens Hugh Train stands with his back to the audience dressed in only a loincloth of puffed sacking and recites Shelley’s poem, his own long limbs assuming totemic significance as we hear of “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone”. With the adoption of a half mask and facial expressions he successfully goes on to create the “shattered visage...frown...And wrinkled lip” of the fallen statue. Thereupon we are put in our place and told what to expect. As stated in the flyer, “Ramesses the Great (Ozymandias to his friends), invites all passing travellers to an unsurpassable evening of wit, charm, intrigue, profundity, music, storytelling and career advice. The privilege of the company of the King of Kings is quite unlike any other; all should prepare to be humbled before him.”

Certainly it was an evening “quite unlike any other” but in terms of what followed “unsurpassable” is something of a hyperbole, though everything else was there. Humbling was in abundance, mostly when he confronted individuals seated on a chair in close-up face to face encounters demanding responses. Those who succumbed to his questions were then often humiliated rather than humbled and the atmosphere often felt uneasy. Consistent with the poem there was much sneering and many cold commands, but there were many lighter moments including the Pharoah’s amusing denunciation of Gary Barlow.

I’m not enamoured of Ozymandias, but it has to be commended for being true to its intention and for taking the absurdist form to its uttermost; perhaps too far for it to make any sort of sense or have any meaning whatsoever, but then maybe that is the point. Absurdism exists in its own right for being what it is. Lovers of the genre, however, will appreciate the absence of a plot, the ambiguity of time, the philosophical speculations, the arbitrariness of events and unrelated scenes and the general chaos of it all. What is less palatable is the excessively haughty and self indulgent manner in which much of it is delivered. Musing on possible future productions my mind lingered on the prospect of Narcissus or Adonis.

Whatever the final judgement on this play might be in the meantime it should certainly create controversy. It is probably worth seeing to be part of that debate, but not if you like naturalism and a good story. This is the absurdist of the absurd.  

Reviews by Richard Beck

Brockley Jack Theatre

every seven years

★★★
Arcola Theatre

The Game of Love and Chance

★★★
Lion & Unicorn

Two Worlds No Family

★★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Mr and Mrs Nobody

★★★★
The Space

Helium

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Exile

★★

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The Blurb

Ramesses the Great (Ozymandias to his friends), invites all passing travellers to an unsurpassable evening of wit, charm, intrigue, profundity, music, storytelling and career advice. The privilege of the company of the King of Kings is quite unlike any other; all should prepare to be humbled before him. Winner Best Show Durham Drama Festival 2015. 'Startling, profound, baffling, but brilliant' (TheBubble.org.uk). 'Ozymandias is not safe. It is different ... and isn't that what you want from theatre?' (Community.dur.ac.uk).

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