As somebody who loves theatre, I naturally hate one-man plays. The Fringe authorities should drive them all underground into dank wynds and sunless cellars. Curiously enough, Jeremy Fletcher/ Sheepish Productions’ one-man “The Shadow on their Wall” is presently playing at Paradise in the Vault, which is as dank and sunless as a Fringe venue can be. But even now I am not satisfied.
It is as frustrating as listening to a single violinist who is trying to replicate the majesty of a symphony orchestra. “Shadow on their Wall” is a show for six characters: husband, wife, two children, second husband, and psychiatrist. Gareth Watkins performs or somehow evokes or plays recordings of all six parts, essentially negating the interest of these different characters interacting with each other. But is the ticket a sixth of the price?
I attended this show because it is advertised as horror, but it offers more misery than horror. The hapless Michael is estranged from his family for reasons which are never convincingly specified. His fixation with watching them from afar, as unobtrusively as a “shadow on their wall,” will end in… err, manslaughter? He is not remotely a sympathetic character and the promotional jingle about “inner demons” seems only to glorify his banal motives.
Yet the direction and production of “Shadow on their Wall” are often accomplished. During the performance which I witnessed, Watkins managed to remain superbly intense even as a busking bagpiper struck up outside the venue. There are also a couple of points in the writing’s favour. When we find Michael fretting about his impulse to endanger or publicly humiliate himself, this is probably more redolent of Edgar Allan Poe (especially “The Imp of the Perverse”) than the Poe-themed show which is playing simultaneously in the Vault’s other theatre. Fletcher’s play is also admirably short and it packs a lot into its forty minutes.
But this is a one-man show and it does not need any encouragement.