Jetting in from Dublin,
Pilgrim does not outstay its welcome, even at 1 hour 20 minutes.
Initially, Gonzo Theatre Company’s Pilgrim had me concerned at just how long an hour and 20 minutes was going to be as the thumping music and obnoxious behaviour started. Yes, I did enjoy my 90th birthday – thank you for asking. Thankfully, it becomes apparent that this is the first step on a long journey to redemption. When rumours come over the plane’s intercom of a terrible tragedy elsewhere, everyone knows what they are referring to and events suddenly take a more sombre, introspective turn as the protagonist’s plane is grounded in a small village in the middle of Nowhere, Newfoundland.
Rex Ryan gives an amazing performance as Christie, somehow maintaining an incredible amount of energy throughout the entire show. He switches fluently between all facets of Christie’s character, from face-planting drunk to hungover cynic to guilty father-to-be. He is aided by a remarkable script from Philip Doherty, containing some absolute gems of lines, injecting humour as needed alongside the more thoughtful parts of the play. Aoife Spillane-Hinks’ direction must also be praised. The simplicity of the staging enhances the connection we feel with Christie’s story and she has managed to get so much consideration and feeling from Ryan in every single line.
The story at times does feel like it meanders about a bit. There are moments where it’s not quite clear where Christie is or why he’s going there and there are cases of over-describing the world and other characters around him. The use of genuinely deafening music in some of the bar scenes is, whilst certainly effective at setting the scene, a little impractical when it comes to telling what’s going on. Thumbs up to the lighting however for the beautiful transitions between day and night.
Pilgrim does not outstay its welcome, even at 1 hour 20 minutes. It is an excellent one-man piece of storytelling and the story itself is superbly heartfelt.