Being As I Am*** (King’s Head Theatre)

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Faced with a drunken man staggering around and rambling incoherently, most of us would make a dash for a corner at the back of the pub and hope that he stays at the front. However, on this occasion, we are invited to the back of the King’s Head to meet just such a man and spend 80 minutes in his company. The unnamed young man in question appears wearing a crooked bow tie and a dinner jacket with a pink carnation in the lapel; he looks as if he is about to give the best man speech at a wedding reception after all the guests have departed. He is not happy, describing himself as “not a person, but a person-shaped black hole”. He arrives already drunk and then empties four gin bottles, literally drinking himself under the table. Is he doing this to celebrate, to console himself or just to forget? He decides that it must be to forget, because he can no longer remember the reason. Edmond Digby-Jones captures the man’s state of advanced inebriation very convincingly, struggling to keep his balance, his mind racing and his tongue racing well ahead of it. One minute morose, the next regressing to childhood, he apologises to an imaginary female friend for his transgressions and promises not to do it again, without having a clue as to what he has done. He pours gin into her glass and when, after a couple of minutes, the glass is still full, he empties it himself. He coughs and then repeatedly reassures himself that he is still alive by exclaiming “still able to cough”, until it occurs to him that he might have got drunk to forget that he has an incurable chest disease. In fact, we conclude long before him that the most likely reason for his drunkenness is that he is using gin as an antidote to loneliness. Despite the obvious humour, the overall tone of Timothy Turner’s monologue, directed by himself, is rarely comic. Backed by slow, repetitive piano music, it is more melancholy and, eventually, nightmarish. In taking us into the darker zones of alcohol abuse, the play is not likely to do much for the King’s Head’s bar sales, but it serves as a salutary warning to the audience. ! ! As Being As I Am is at least 20 minutes too long, Digby-Jones has to work harder than he needs to, making it tempting to offer to buy him a drink at the end. On second thoughts, perhaps that would not be such a good idea.

Performance date: 18 May 2014

thepublicreview_hor_web copy

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