It is difficult to work out exactly who this play is for. Or, indeed, what. It feels a little like a Twonkey show that has accidentally been cast with actors instead of puppets. And to that end it is fascinating, thanks to an endlessly compliant and really very talented cast. It is, however, a little too based in reality, for a true Twonkey show, being, after all, the story of David Lynch's tussles and tribulations while directing The Elephant Man. However that reality is, in turn, too 'Twonkeyfied' to make for comfortable watching should you be expecting any semblance of a realistic narrative arc. It is probably fitting, for a piece about David Lynch that it is so… unsettling. However, achieving the necessary suspension of disbelief to support us through this show does ask a fair bit of heavy lifting from its audience in terms of background knowledge of Lynch and his idiosyncratic working methods, to say nothing of the particular and peculier problems in the process of making The Elephant Man.
There is much to love in this odd hour
There is much to love in this odd hour and those of us who have previous experience with Paul Vickers will assume that the awkward entrances and exits, the stashes of odd props around the performing area and the intermittently quasi-coarse-acting-show performances are all part of the deliberate Vickers style. Those unfamiliar with the Vickers' oeuvre, may be mildly discombobulated. It probably comes to the same thing.
Robert Atler is an understated and absolute joy in the unlikely twin roles of Sir Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. Surrounded by an exuberance of 'acting' he pitches the performances perfectly and provides an irresistibly funny lacuna of disciplined surreality. Together with Steven Vickers, when the latter is in Sir John Geiguid mode, they make a gloriously Pythonesque double act and I could happily watch them in their own show next year. The scene in the motorbike and sidecar is a thing of joyful genius. Steven Vickers goes into high energy cartoon mode as producer Mel Brookes, without whose comic appearances to move the plot along, we might still be in Greenside Studio.
Miranda Shrapnell is another cartoon, this time, Lynch's unlikely love interest. She handles her two dimensional character beautifully – and so when it is revealed she is a product of Lynch's febrile imagination, we are surprised and then, immediately, realise that it was quite obvious all along. As Lynch himself, Paul Vickers is oblique casting, to say the least. He is not an actor. He is no more David Lynch than he is Isabella Rossellini. His presence in the central role makes the entire show some form of theatre that no one has given a name to yet. But it is fascinating. And that is good. And I think David Lynch might have rather liked it.