Review by Carmel Shortall
Timothy Mann received a standing ovation for his show SPACE at the John Gielgud Theatre, RADA on 8th August. Playing for one night only at the 2011 Camden Fringe, there was a real feeling of excitement at having participated in something special as the audience began to file out after the performance.
As the show opens, a voice asks what is Space? The answer comes, “Space is anything that can be occupied”. The lights come on but nothing happens for a moment until someone in the audience starts making strange noises. It’s Timothy Mann, in his first and, to my mind, most endearing character – that of an unworldly alien attempting to find the right frequency with which to communicate with creatures who like food and have “a nasty habit of breathing”. No sooner has he bounded onto the stage, than he’s back in the audience demonstrating spatial awareness by moving from “public space” to “personal space” to “intimate space” obliging one poor audience member to cringe good-naturedly in his seat.
Mann is a tremendously likeable, energetic and inventive performer, constantly on the move, improvising and interacting with his audience. At one point someone is given the universe to hold without dropping it. Later we are all entrusted with our own personal atoms to be kept safely in a pocket until needed.
Different characters weave in and out of each other’s appearances: a US army general; Mike the lothario – from Milan but living in London; a dotty professor; a Japanese guy who pops up every so often just to say Hello – in Japanese, naturally. The changes come so quickly towards the end that he is practically standing still.
Finally, Director Neil Farrelly gives the audience the chance to ask any of Timothy’s characters a question and so we learn that one character, Luke, is eleven but Mike the Italian won’t reveal where Timothy gets his leotards.
I asked Timothy how the show had come about after the performance. He explained that he had done a short, purely physical one-man show called HAND a few years ago and wanted to do something similar but with characters. He likes to take stereotypical characters and develop them into individuals such as the general who started life as mainly stoic but who now has a back story. He is constantly adding and taking away characters and the show changes in response to new audiences.
SPACE has travelled all over the world – especially in Asia – touring schools and festivals and there are plans to take it abroad again soon. The highly physical nature of the performance means it can easily be adapted where not much English is spoken.
As stated already, SPACE came to the Fringe for one night only and it is impossible to say when there will be another opportunity to see it. But if you get the chance, go – it’s an experience.