Canoe is a Hidden Gem – Dramatic, Entertaining, Moving!
Matthew Roberts wrote and performs his latest solo show, directed by Struan Leslie, founding Head of Movement at the RSC, produced by Bread and Butter Productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018. This is a substantial and experienced team, which is reflected in the quality of the show and performance.
We meet David and Tom, a gay couple, who are parents of three children. Roberts has a strong presence and inhabits all of the characters in the play. Deftly switching back and forth in spirited conversations between Tom, a gay children’s author, and ex-military partner David, they have recently suffered a huge loss in their family.
When playing Tom, Roberts’ eyes are vibrant and he is direct yet emotional at the situation he is in. Tom’s character is also personable, professional and multi-dimensional and Roberts fleshes this character out in physical and emotional aspects and also with his love of literature and storytelling. Several times through the one-man play Roberts picks up a book and reads out loud.
The most memorable moment is from Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Field and Roberts is in top form when he repeats the title and resources his own personality, voice and facial expression to say the phrase. At these moments Roberts develops a real rapport with the audience, it is simple yet magical and draws the audience in with his charm.
Next we meet partner, David, an American, more relaxed physically, who is dealing with the sad loss privately and is not as emotional or as literary as Tom.
Their two youngest children were born through surrogacy, and Andrew, the oldest, is adopted. The earth shattering news means this family will never be the same again. We also watch first hand how two people experience pain and loss so differently, and this is fine if that helps get each of them through the days.
We see how books and stories build joyful and meaningful memories through reading to each other. Therefore, reading the stories again brings the memories vividly alive through the mind and imagination – and can never be taken away.
Roberts narrates in the first person to the audience as each of the three characters, he speaks in dialogue with the other characters, uses literary language and poetic quotations, rhyme and a few flashes of nonsense rhyme, all of which are effective.
Struan Leslie, as director and dramaturg has done a masterful job corralling the many evocative references from literature and Roberts well of ideas and dynamic energy into a finely crafted and performed show.
Important topics in this play range from being a gay parent, choosing to have children, pain and loss – and love.
A born storyteller with an individual idiosyncratic flair, Roberts is a compelling writer and performer. He really wants to tell us this story and his textured performance adds depth to his sincere, human and nuanced delivery and emotion.
Roberts has created a layered piece of new writing, which is well crafted, poetic and poignant. The build of the piece is gripping and palpable to the end as Roberts transforms from a warm sunny disposition to a piercing vulnerability and back. A Hidden Gem of a show!
Originally published in www.FringeReview.co.uk
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