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Review: 8th Wave

Young gay writer's new play


We at GT aren’t always good in a crisis. The thought of a burglary at GT Towers has us clambering to the jewel safe and removing all of our precious gems (e.g. Issue 69 of Gay Times "LOL"; a glittery dog collar, a lock of Joan Collins’ day wig).

Thus, while James Ernest’s 8th Wave, which is running at The Space on Westferry Road, might be intended more as a chin-stroker than a nerve-shredder, its basic premise left us perturbed. In the young playwright’s debut piece, a wizened shop-owner Brian's little world revolves around his business which is built up from nothing. Lonely and unmarried, somewhat at odds with the world, his self-righteous world-view cadged from the Daily Mail, he believes in things as they should be, not as they are.

When teenage would-be thief Mathew breaks into his shop, Brian exposes the fire of his resentment and the burns of its origin. He detains the boy and unleashes on him the fury of his bitterness at the world. Mathew fears the worst. Um, why would ANYONE attempt to subdue a burglar? Why is that on anybody’s list of priorities? Don’t you know that, in an altercation, an intruder will attempt to scald you with water from your own kettle? Don’t you have a family of small dogs or a warren of rabbits to live for?! You need your skin.

Concerns voiced, 8th Wave is a thoughtful, precise debut from a young artist who knows his voice. It straddles several equally convincing concepts: a meeting of two irrevocably disparate minds characterised by the polarities of young and old, crime and punishment; an existentialist allegory wherein both characters are faced with a manifestation of what they fear and need; a fable about myopia and loneliness.

Guided by a strong, measured performance by Francis Adams as Brian the shopkeeper, his junior stagepartner, Alex Payne, is given the arguably more difficult task of moving along with him nimbly while physically anchored to one spot for most of the production. Brian’s flat, the play’s mis-en-scene, and its grim stagnation are juxtaposed with the ingenuity of the production’s latter moments which visually articulate the playwright’s precise artistic message.

Co-directors Don McCamphill and Luke Lutterer have done a masterful job in keeping the suspense of the play restrained and allowing its wave to lap and spray rather than to crash.

GT gives it 4/5

The 8th Wave is on at The Space theatre until Saturday, with tickets available at The Space website

Words: Patrick Scullion

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