George Orwell, probably one of the greatest writers of all time (although I may be a little bias on the subject).
A man that brought us such influential works such as ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’, his works always hid within their lines an underlying social or political message, one in which when discovered would be hard hitting and some form of challenge to the normal way of the world.
Down and Out in Paris & London done just that, a book about one man’s struggle to survive on the scraps of the world, desperately trying to carve out some form of life for himself in the underbelly of the chaotic Parisian lifestyle, looking up at the world from rock bottom, and sharing with us experiences through meeting dark and sometimes complex characters in the hustle and bustle of Paris to the more familiar and black and white streets of London.
The Belfast audience was treated to this bravura performance by Phelim Drew, whose adaptation of the book, taking it from words on a page to the stage was nothing short of sensational, and a real treat for any Orwell fan, or any lover of the arts in general.
Phelim Drew took to the stage alone, to carry out a one man play, in a book with a multitude of complex characters, all as different from each other as the last…a daunting task for any actor I’m sure, but made to look effortless by Drew. He flowed through the show from start to finish with a real sense of ease about the performance, asif it was all just second nature to him, or as if he himself was Orwell and just telling us experiences in which he had lived. The play was brilliantly done, it created a real story teller atmosphere, dragging you into the play, letting you hang on every word as if Drew was speaking to us individually in the crowd, telling us his own story, rather than just throwing out lines from a script to a room filled with faces.
The staging was simple, a small wooden square, sat upon it was a rustic looking table, two wooden chairs and a glass of wine, nothing much to play on by the sounds of it, however Drew turned these simple items and tiny stage into Paris and London with his imaginative style of acting out every word, showing us what he saw in his mind, be it a run down hotel in Paris or cobble street in London.
A real stand out point of the performance was the overall delivery by Drew, he never stopped for a moment, never took a short break, for the duration of over an hour, he walked, jumped and ran around the small stage, cramming every key element of the book into his performance. Drew threw us from the humours moments staright back into the darker realiities before the laughter could fully even die down, a real pleasure to watch from start to finish. A truly enjoyable, imagative and evocative adaptation of the Orwell story. Niall Donnelly, GiggingNI.com