The Booker Prize nominated novel The Underground Man, has been adapted for the stage by Nick Wood for the Nottingham Playhouse. It comes to Coventry as it’s last stop on a UK tour.
With all of the scenes played on the same simple set, it is down to the actors, the spin of a desk and clever lighting to transport you to a new location. This concentrates your mind on the action rather than being distracted and interrupted by scene changes and pauses. The play flows effortlessly between locations and through time slowly adding layers to the tale.
The Duke, William (Iain Armstrong) is an eccentric with a curiosity for the world that is developing around him. His head is full of questions, including who is the floating boy he can see in the corner of his eye. His long serving personal Butler, Clement (Mick Jasper) is by his side trying to guide him and help him with his medical neuroses. Atmospheric music is provided by Nigel Waterhouse on an accordion who also composed the original score.
Iain Armstrong plays the dukes many aspects with believability and conviction. It is Mick Jasper who has the most complex part, or parts, to play in this production. Jasper not only plays Clement but every other character in the story from a vicar to twin sisters. His many characters never merge and are always clear and individual.
This play has many levels, it portrays the feel of the Victorian era of change and development at the same time as a man’s personal struggle against old age. Alongside this is the mystery of what the Duke is trying to find in the depths of his memory. The performances and story are strong and make for an intriguing evening.
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