Thomas Magill (Thomas Campbell) lives with his Mammy (Deborah Galanos) in what appears to be a hoarder’s abode. Kate Gaul’s design throws old cassette tapes and clutter everywhere, with the general smell of dank mustiness in the air. There’s a surrealist vibe to it all – unsurprising given the nature of Enda Walsh’s script. Nate Edmondson’s compositions waft across the stage, initially all playing over each other to mimic the disorganised clutter around. Misterman contains many such devices, clever depictions of the jumbled state of Magill’s mind as he goes about his potentially real, potentially fictional day.
The beauty of Gaul’s overall concept, combined with the ingenuity inherent in Walsh’s writing, is that for a large portion of the play it is difficult to ascertain whether the events being described are real or not. Magill is alone on stage, the actor deftly flitting between himself and all other characters inhabiting this quaint, little, unimpressive Irish town. There is a major exception – the cassette players provide Mammy’s side of the conversation and at times chime up with other, unwelcome additions to the dialogue. But because the stage is static, always resembling Magill’s house, we remain perplexed as to whether young Thomas is really wandering about town, running errands for his Mammy and preaching the word of the Lord onto the otherwise heathen community; or whether something far more sinister is going in and Magill is simply trapped in his consciousness to play out this fateful day again and again. It’s a day where he thinks he receives a calling to smite the wicked in the name of the Lord, but in reality, he has a psychotic episode and lashes out on those around him.
Magill’s monologue is interrupted with signs of reality trying to push back in to his daydream, the dogs of the town that nip at his legs as he slowly unravels before our eyes. With the same fluidity of jumping between characters, Campbell is able to dip in and out of the bubble, his ever more prominent mannerisms and ticks indicating that the tension on its protective surface is starting to break. It’s a beautiful compliment to Walsh’s script that Campbell can so effortlessly convey such a dichotomy of mental processes – the sinister monster is always just lurking under the surface, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it can burst forth.
The tipping point is the presence of the angel Edel (Briallen Clark), pulling Magill’s focus from his mission and tempting him into committing sins of the flesh. It’s a mean joke instigated by the outside world, but as we listen to the final tape recording, our flesh prickles in the presence of Magill’s damned smile. His retribution rains down, a swift, unforgiving, torrent.
Misterman sends out many messages that leave us intrigued rather than confused. Gaul presents multiple possible scenarios, all of which are plausible – a showcase for the confusion present inside Magill’s mind. It’s a ticking time bomb of a show that explodes in the dying seconds.
Misterman plays C Royale as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 28 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.