The Three Stigmata of Pacman

In this one-hour show, talented Ross Sutherland brings philosophy, physics and fun together to create a highly entertaining view of contemporary society, which transcends the obvious, scintillates with originality and packs a hard-hitting intellectual punch with the feather-light levity of a cotton-ball souflée aerated by a child’s laughter. The premise of the show is a chronological journey through key stages in Sutherland’s life – his career as a journalist at Metro, and his professional and personal relations with his open-plan-office colleagues at the Daily Mail; his budding career as a performance poet; his forced return to his family home in Coggeshill, Essex and his ‘bed no bigger than a cake tin’ after cutbacks render him jobless, and his eventual return North, bringing things full circle, ending where he started in terms of space, but having moved forward in time, as a changed person – not least because of a time capsule he’d picked up at Whitechapel market. This living metaphor is a prop he uses artfully and disingenuously to try to build a better world. He uses it to actively symbolise the power people have to throw away the dysfunctional and build a better future, should they choose to use it. On the way, he manages to entertain, challenge, and more importantly, perhaps, engage his audience emotionally. Sutherland is well aware of the rhetorical power he has, but he never abuses it, something which is greatly to his credit. After a couple of virtuosic displays of the force of his rhetorical arsenal power had hit the audience, they burst out into spontaneous appreciative applause despite themselves, almost caught unawares by his brilliance. His comedy comes at you from outside the field of play, from where you’re least expecting it. His associative play on words and images which compared the Trojan war, consumerist branding and Blairite warmongery is astute and sophisticated, the power subtly disguised through the use of wit and humour. The same can be said for his masterful literary manoeuvres around the whole ethos of totalitarian regimes. The theme of time travel inevitably touches on the theory of relativity, but Sutherland takes relativity one level further, debating relative moral values in a stroke of literary and performance genius which sees the traditional tale of Red Riding Hood masterfully reworked to provide one of the most entertaining pieces of one-man-showmanship I have ever witnessed. Another highlight is his protracted virtuosic retelling of a shopping expedition into the heart of Coggeshill. His shabby appearance and unique idiolect which makes certain terms come out of his mouth strangely – with laissez-faire sounding very like something to do with a cross between a film featuring a loveable sheepdog and Eddie Izzard, or his pronunciation of interlocutor conjuring up images of liquor stores, are endearing rather than annoying. The digital backdrops of images, diagrams and video footage which come in at particular points to accompany his monologue are sophisticated and work well, as do the simple musical backing tracks he uses under some of his performance poetry, both providing variety and colour which underscores and amplifies the points Sutherland makes without ever appearing amateurish or distracting. The yellow-jawed pixel-munching video game character referenced in the title makes several appearances on screen towards the end of the show in a poetic visual montage which is as effective as the script. The religious references are less obvious – something I missed completely, it must be said. ‘Oh, we are future’s fools’, he rants, and then disarms the audience with a smile, admitting that for all his wisdom and his way with words, he is just as foolish as any of us, winning his audience over with his considerable stage presence. Catch this show if you can – it’s worth making the effort. I could say you’d be foolish not to see him, but then, I’m tempted to adopt a Sutherland smile and add, you’ll never know either way unless you do.

Reviews by Leon Conrad

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The Blurb

Set amongst the backdrop of mid-recession Britain and a decaying newspaper industry, this is the true-story adventure into the self-fulfilling prophecy. Navigating poetry, stories and animation this is a darkly comic ride head forth into the apocalypse by award-winning poet Ross Sutherland. Exploring themes such as media rhetoric, historical bias, and posterity in art, The Three Stigmata of Pacman attempts to be a snapshot of contemporary Britain at a strange turning point in its cultural legacy; where newspapers are reporting science fiction, and the poets are burying themselves in the garden.

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