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February 2004
Review: Mongoose
Dan Harkin
Dan Harkin


Mongoose
By Peter Harness

The Burton Taylor Theatre

Tuesday 3 - 7 February
Times: 7:30pm

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By Natalie Toms

There don't seem to be any seats. You haven't entered a theatre, you've entered the farmhouse. And just as you start to get a sense of the room, you're interrupted by a strange old man wheeling his way towards you with the offer of a cup of tea.

It is then that you realise that there really are no seats: you will be standing up for an hour listening to a nutter in a wheelchair.

In order to get away with this type of innovation, a monologue had better be pretty damn good. Luckily for him, and for the audience, Dan Harkin pulls it off with panache.

Ted, played by Harkin, seems to be a friendly, if eccentric old farmer. He begins to talk with the tale of how, as a child, he became friends with a talking mongoose soon after the death of his mother.

His story becomes darker by stages, however, as the 'mongoose' is blamed for many of the things that seem to go wrong on the farm. Things such as abusive notes. Then dead animals.

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that these reminiscences are leading to a very disturbing conclusion, and Ted does not disappoint.

What makes the whole production stand out, however, is not just the fear which grows in the audience as they realise the level of Ted's psychotic delusion, but the manner in which they are drawn into his world.

This is partly done directly, as Ted accosts individual members of the audience, but is also inherent in the humour of Peter Harness' script. Harkin times the one-liners to perfection, even as Ted displays increasing sounds of madness.

The play is superbly produced and directed by Clare Bevis and Sam Brown. The set is spartan enough so not to confuse the audience and yet contains enough points of interest to hold attention, as Ted wheels around different sets of boxes, each triggering new memories.

After a while it is even possible to appreciate the purpose of the lack of seating. It is the very proximity of the audience to Ted which makes us appreciate both his charm and his insanity.

Go and give him a visit. Apart from anything else, you'll get a free cup of tea.

 

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