With an intriguing title, and due to not knowing what lay ahead, it was with trepidation that the members of a sold-out and overflowing audience entered the production’s performance space – the intimate, black box of Studio A for this one-off performance of Sisyphus’s Safari. Faced with a mattress and table in the centre of the space, and a ring of cushions around the edge, upon entry the audience were told to circle around the outside of the space, dancing and moving faster in an odd version of musical cushions. The exciting and unusual start to this play continued for the rest of the performance to create a unique, truthful and comic show that will amuse everyone (if you like frog sex that is).
A one-man show is difficult in itself, let alone one, as was evident here, where the writer and performer, the wonderful Jack Solloway, had bared his soul to the audience. At once poignant, comic and incredibly truthful, his extended monologue which made up much of the performance encompassed the feelings of our generation – lost, slightly stupid and a little narcissistic. The addition of one (un)fortunate soul from the audience mimicking the actions as Solloway delivered the lines, whose tasks included lying on the bed, flicking through a notebook and pretending to have a wank, also added to the comedy of this piece, and broke a little of the tension felt due to the intense monologue.
”At once poignant, comic and incredibly truthful, his extended monologue which made up much of the performance encompassed the feelings of our generation”
It is also worth noting the other comic aspects of this production. Alongside the constant claims Solloway made as to only having written the piece the night before, every member of the audience was attired beautifully in extravagant fancy dress. After completing the musical cushions, a bag with a description attached was found on each seat, within which were handmade, but quite fantastic costumes. From pantomime horses and flowers to hedgehogs and bees (I myself was attired somewhat comically as Fishy the Fish), this dressing-up and audience involvement added to the intoxicating atmosphere of the play and caused a giggle before the performance itself had even properly began. Here we were, the safari to Solloway’s Sisyphus. But where would these costumes and characters come in?
”From a cheeky bit of frog coitus, to the domestic affairs of adulterous horses with a liking for the pricklier things in life, every member of the audience became part of the performance”
This was soon revealed in the breaks in Solloway’s monologue, which were filled with small animal narratives of a very humorous nature. Much to everyone’s amusement, audience members had to get involved with this animal erotica and perform the roles as related. From a cheeky bit of frog coitus, to the domestic affairs of adulterous horses with a liking for the pricklier things in life, every member of the audience became part of the performance – something that, in my opinion, added to the joy and humour of the production rather than worked against it. Other members of the audience, however, were not as willing to perform, which could affect their enjoyment of the piece – maybe a warning about audience participation could be given before the show?
“Sisyphus’s Safari (The Boy With No Face) was truthfully one of the best pieces of fringe theatre I have seen”
With an unusual and silly ending, Solloway’s show is, however, an out and out triumph, which everyone who attended enjoyed immensely. Lit, managed and performed by Solloway himself, Sisyphus’s Safari (The Boy With No Face) was truthfully one of the best pieces of fringe theatre I have seen. With Sisyphus noted alternatively to be both the Greek king forced to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity for his craftiness and cunning, and also the epitome of the absurd hero, representative of life’s loneliness, Solloway epitomised both of these things perfectly. Crafty and cunning in his knowledge of his audience and what makes a good show, and absurd in his sparkly jacket, Solloway’s production was simply amazing and a must see.
Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre
STUFF is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Wednesday 15th June. For more information and to book tickets, see here.