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September 2004
Dead Beet
Pocket Watch - Gregory is a clock mender
Pocket Watch - Gregory is a clock mender

Dead Beet
By Andrea Lechner

Burton Taylor Theatre

29 September - 2 October 2004

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The Burton Taylor
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Tim Bearder

Until 4 0'clock yesterday I knew nothing about Dead Beet, then I went on Radio Oxford and mentioned I was going.

"Oh fantastic," enthused the presenter. "That's the play with Ellen Bassani in the lead role. We had her on yesterday. Did you know she's been almost blind since birth?"

"Oh blimey" I thought. What if it's bad! What will I write?

So here I am, the day after the night before… Brace yourself I'm a well publicised git.

Although Ellen had walked into the wall a couple of times and talked to the wrong end of the telephone it wasn't spoiling things. What made me shudder at the prospect of a second half was the script.

Poor old Gregory, is a diabetic trying to learn Braille from Sian (Ellen) before he goes blind. He has diabetes, he's impotent and he also seems to suffer from a weird type of autism making him completely socially retarded.

This means that the moment the hint of a "love thing" starts bouncing between them you want it to stop. Was I missing the subtle dark humour? I don't think so, by the interval I wouldn't have given two hoots if they'd both married a tea pot and gone to live in Peru.

It wasn't just the script. Why the tortuous quantity of scene changes? And if you're going to make nine million scene changes don't make them each a minute long! Assuming there were twenty scene changes that's twenty minutes we sat in the dark, left to talk about where to eat afterwards. This could have been used as a poignant theatrical device to evoke the sensation of blindness, but it wasn't.

I feel bad now, especially as it was Ellen's acting debut. But even though what she did was in many ways incredible it's probably a good idea if everyone responsible for this play sits down and has a long hard think about what they've done.

Right I'm off to do penance in a Christian monastery.

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