The Fetch Wilson is the type of play that might work very well as a film, or so you might think upon leaving the theatre. The story follows Liam Wilson, or Bill, as he becomes after encountering a child at school with the same name. Bill is the storyteller, an Irish man attempting to explain why he has entered the space wearing a dressing gown and a rubber ring over his underwear. Over the course of the next hour, Bill weaves a tale, ostensibly of his own life. All the audience can do is sit back and let themselves be drawn into Bill’s world of dark, seedy encounters and increasingly violent situations.
Mullane’s performance is brilliantly layered, inspiring sympathy through the pitiful sense of sadness behind his brash exterior.
As the sole performer, Edwin Mullane has the near impossible job of holding the audience’s interest with no real help from any other source. Sure, there are a few well-placed lighting cues, but the set is deliberately sparse to give Mullane free reign over the space. It is a shame, then, that he does not always manage to fill it. The blocking favours simplicity over ingenuity, putting more pressure on Mullane to captivate just with his face and voice. Inevitably in an hour long show, he occasionally fails to do this.
Luckily, these moments are quite rare. Mullane’s performance is brilliantly layered, inspiring sympathy through the pitiful sense of sadness behind his brash exterior. But for all his micro-expressions and well executed-Irish witticisms, there is a sense that he has been let down a little by Jed Murray’s reserved direction. All of the creatives should be praised for pulling off what feels just like listening to an eccentric stranger rambling on in a pub, but could they have done more with that idea? Bill breaks the fourth wall immediately, but there are very few instances of interaction past delivering a given line to a certain audience member on occasion. Perhaps it would be more interesting to play around a bit, if Murray and Mullane had an idea of who they thought Bill might be telling his story to.
There are definite cinematic elements in playwright Stewart Roche’s work. Sections of the show are very reminiscent of certain monologues from Martin McDonagh’s oeuvre, perhaps most overtly referencing Colin Farrell’s character in Seven Psychopaths. The use of an unreliable narrator is a great device well used, and the non-linear approach to Bill’s storytelling adds to the feelings of uncertainty and unease woven throughout. The end of the play dives into predictability, especially for anyone who might have read in the copy that Chuck Palahniuk was an influence, so is a little underwhelming. But with strong acting from start to finish, and a script brimming with thrills and intrigue, The Corps Ensemble have created a strong show, just in need of a tiny push towards excellence.