The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank

The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank is directed by Conrad Sharp and performed by Familia de la Noche, taking place in the home and imagination of Edward Blank. It is a cacophonous riot of physical, mime and clowning theatre.

It asks questions about the issue of mental health while not forcing us to take a particular view.

We start with a humorous spooky introduction which sets the tone for the action. Edward is in his flat and kept company by an enclave of imaginary friends. Sam Redway, who plays Edward, by and large does a good job, though he is occasionally prone to disconnected acting which takes us out of his rollercoaster story. Nevertheless, he makes a heroic effort in the lead of this demanding show.

Malik Ibheis, as Mr Bubak, is the main mime of the group and does a great job as the silent focus of the assembled spectres – his lack of lines does nothing to take away from his ability to take us in to the story and he is a pleasure to watch. Melissa Sirol’s Miss Twist is a joyful clown and plays her mischievous role well, teasing Edward Blank and adding to the thrill of the story with her cheeky allure. And Mrs Timonel, played by Becca Cox, evokes bouts of laughter from the audience – when she has a good line to work with. Her character feels like the least developed of the crew, which unfortunately hinders our connection to her, especially early on in the play. The funniest material seems to have been doled out to Jean Goubert, who plays the studly Mr Net: despite a tendency to overplay the humour, he is hilarious to watch and indispensable as a fun member of the group.

Sharp’s direction is incredibly strong, with the cast moving all over the set in ever more interesting and enticing ways. Some of the physical theatre aspects of the piece could be a bit more finely tuned – on occasion a touch of clumsiness is allowed to creep in. That being said, it is a titanic effort by the cast and they should be congratulated as such.

The set design (by Lily Knight) has lots of interesting parts for the cast to work with, and the projections (by Xanthe Young) and sound work (by Dott Cotton) competently take us into the disturbed mind of Edward Blank. I would recommend this family show as having broad appeal to young people and adults alike. It asks questions about the issue of mental health while not forcing us to take a particular view – we can either make our own conclusions or simply enjoy the show.

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The Blurb

Edward Blank is extraordinary. A mild mannered audiotypist, he rarely leaves his one-bed flat. But Edward is never alone. His tiny magnolia world is far from empty. Unseen by anybody else, but utterly real to Edward, are an imaginary entourage of maniacal friends all vying for attention and adventures. Edward is happy in his ordinary-extraordinary life, until a voice on an audio-tape changes his world forever. Familia de la Noche return after their five-star show The Greatest Liar in All the World, with their darkly comic style of clowning, live music and storytelling.

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