THEATRE REVIEW | HARD GRAFT (OVALHOUSE)
Theatre

THEATRE REVIEW | HARD GRAFT (OVALHOUSE)

Solo shows are not the easiest, neither for the actor to perform or for the audience to attend. As the performer has to catch and keep the audience’s attention with his verbal and theatrical skills, on the other side of the stage the spectator has no choice but to closely follow the speaker, with little space left for distraction. David Sheppeard has achieved all this with Hard Graft, a monologue presented last week at Ovalhouse as a preview of the tour coming up later this year.

The show consists of a one hour performance, in which Sheppeard, author and actor, plays himself, trying to make a show about his father. He recalls memories from the past in order to visualise and better understand the quiet and formal relationship with him; an attempt to catch his personality, the man beyond the mythological figure from his childhood and the now elderly adult.

As a result his father appears as a ghost character, never visible on stage physically, yet constantly revealing himself through his son’s words, fears, gestures. A question runs throughout the entire play: “Why did you have me?”. Will the father answer the son’s existential question?

Sheppeard gives his show a solid structure by combining irony and drama in different theatrical approaches. The monologue reminds you of a personal diary and, in some passages, a psychotherapy session.

When Sheppeard the son leaves for South Wales to discover his father’s childhood and roots, the physical journey typically transforms into an inner journey where several aspects of his personality inevitably emerge – homosexuality, anxiety, ambitions, fears. As theatre and metatheatre alternatively take charge, it is impossible to distinguish David the character from David the man.

With Hard Graft Sheppeard reveals himself as a good talent, arguably not completely mature yet as an actor, but undoubtedly original and never obvious as a playwright. Theatre goers will surely be familiar with his name very soon.

Read more posts by Michelangelo Nigro here and follow him on Twitter @MichelangeloNig

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