Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions, opens on a photography studio. Man #2 (Guy Warren-Thomas), a photographer, is setting up for the day and is quickly joined by a group of people, who take their seats around the edge of the room. One by one, the photographer invites each character into the central photography space, where they proceed to deliver a soul-baring dialogue.
Each member of the cast delivers a powerful performance as their individual characters. Spokeswoman (Claire Lichie), Lady (Esmé Patey-Ford) and Man (Keith Hill) seem to portray a more distressed and perhaps unravelled state of mind, which is particularly moving to watch. Woman (Kaye Brown) and Gentleman (Joseph Stevenson) by contrast, are a little more mellow and contemplative. Each member of the cast conveys an impressive and dynamic range of emotions, through an often lengthy, monologue. Interestingly, the characters seem to each express a different element of the human psyche, making them relatable both individually and as a unit.
The actors complement Will Eno’s writing beautifully throughout the play. The script is incredibly expressive, juxtaposing poetic, almost classical phrases with very blunt, ‘down the earth’ dialogue. This disjointed, scattered approach is enhanced by each actor’s emotive performance, creating the impression of a stream of consciousness, rather than a rehearsed script. The words themselves are skilfully written, often delving into darker more uncomfortable imagery, before the character checks themselves and switches their internal ‘filter’ back on.
Representing people from all walks of life, this play puts us all literally and metaphorically under the spotlight. Each person is utterly exposed and director Paul Lichtenstern successfully incorporates this vulnerability, within every element of the production. I fully empathised with each story- a feeling which was cleverly heightened, through the lens of the Photographer (Philip Nightingale) and his Assistant (Rebecca Herod).
Thematically, the play is open to different interpretations. There is a sense of inadequacy and struggle in each character, from the Spokeswoman who’s out of her depth, to the Coach (Jonathan Kemp) who’s facing the press after a bad year. Alongside this, there are stifled messages of positivity, such as the Woman, who sees beauty in everything but who is unable to convey this to her frustrated husband. Man #2 even describes himself as “the beauty of things” but prefaces this with “you’ll probably laugh but…” perhaps suggesting that the biggest struggle we’re each facing, is with ourselves.
Whilst a broad range of people are represented in the piece, all are within the age bracket of 20s – 40s. Given the inclusive nature of the group, it might also have been interesting to include the perspective of a child or elderly person. Having said this, I didn’t feel that the narrative was lacking at all, from their absence.
I’ll admit that I did spent the first half hour after this play trying to understand it in logical terms, when of course the subject matter of the human mind is anything but. My lasting impression is one of emotion, rather than cognitive thought. For me, Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions is a frank, honest and very moving reflection of how it feels to be human. A very engaging and thought provoking piece.
Writer: Will Eno
Director: Paul Lichtenstern
Producer: Tahmid Chowdhury
Booking Until: 20th September 2014
Booking Link: http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/ohthehumanity.htm
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