“A play about punk rock and brotherhood.”
Luch Caise-Dearg, Phonic FM
Following a sell-out run at Exeter Bikeshed (Fri/Sat 17/18 Jan), Midge and Rosie Mullin have brought their ‘Substance and Shadow Theatre’ production “Duplicity” to the Clifford Room at Exeter Barnfield Theatre – Friday and Saturday 14th & 15th February.
Rosie’s slide-show, which accompanies the play, is slightly hampered by the small projection screen in the Clifford Room. However, it is just as effective as it was at the Bikeshed. As the audience take their seats, the evocative music of the late seventies is enhanced by iconic images of civil unrest and urban strife during the same era.
During the play the projected images continue, illustrating the background to the story and offstage action. News reports, and voices of additional characters, are played through the loudspeakers, giving a very effective complement to the action on stage. Rosie Mullin and Mike Gilpin, who don’t appear in the play, are nevertheless very recognisable in their recorded voice-overs.
The story is introduced and held together by Midge Mullin. Midge delivers his opening monologue from centre-stage, alternating between two characters – twin brothers Tommy and Finbar Kelly. Their life experiences to date, and the relationship between them, is succinctly summed up in Midge’s masterful double soliloquy.
The main plot revolves around the machinations of the Machiavellian impresario Leonard Silver. Nathan Simpson introduces himself as Silver with equal clarity – an aggressive and self-serving boor with a biting brummie accent. Midge’s creation of the relationship between Silver and each of the two brothers is terrifying and spell-binding. An impressive meeting of acting skills.
From the outset, the two brothers are accompanied by their childhood friend Fabie, played by Joana Crisóstomo. Fabie is on stage long before the play begins, and never abandons the two boys. Her concern for them, sadly, does not translate into effective action. She is very timid and uncertain of herself, and no match for the explosive anger of Silver, whenever he finds himself frustrated by the needs of others. Despite her ineffectiveness, Fabie impresses with her dogged determination to do what is right.
By contrast, Tommy’s new friend in the world of punk rock is quite the match for Silver. Ultra Violet (played by Rachel Milne) is fearless and forthright. Her Yorkshire accent cuts through Silver’s West Midland whine like a knife. Devoted to Tommy, she is equally vocal in the defence of Tommy’s unfortunate brother Finbar.
Tommy and Finbar’s mother and uncle are heard off-stage. (The recorded voices are Rosie and Midge.) Their strong Irish brogue places the family, but Midge’s lack of Irish accent as the two boys, illustrates their desire to break away from old family ties.
One last character appears as voice-over – and has the strongest accent of all. Midge himself provides the deep Jamaican drawl of the charismatic Rastafarian evangelist Jah Nebulous. To the accompaniment of the music of Prince Far I, Nebulous pronounces the coming day of judgement – 7/7/77. This portentous announcement is strangely anti-climactic, as Nebulous turns out not to be quite what he seems.
The culmination of this saga of greed and conflict is gripping and emotional. The implied action off-stage is as compelling as the powerful performances under the spotlight. This production displays once again the creative genius of Midge and Rosie, and their capable collaborators in ‘Substance and Shadow’ production company.
This run ends tonight. Another chance to experience this inspired celebration of the anarchic seventies, with its impressive understanding of the complex characters who drove the development of the new musical phenomenon, Punk Rock.