This fascinating monologue is powerfully delivered by Shane Richie and cleverly brought to life by all those involved.
It takes an incredible amount of dedication and energy to captivate audiences from start to finish in a performance of a one-man show – but my goodness does Shane Richie manage to do this in this digital revival of Justin Butcher’s solo show.
Transforming from the cheeky chappie that people know and love, Richie brings vividly to life the character of Scaramouche Jones who on the last night of his life has decided to recount and reflect on his life up until this point. Spanning across a century of events, Butcher’s play is an absorbing and fascinating experience that audiences can relate to with regards to the feeling of observing life rather than participating in it as we have done for the last year.
Directed with great style but also simplicity, Ian Talbot allows Shane Richie’s performance to really take flight – with the help of the use of a video camera, it is striking and feels intimate particularly as Richie approaches the camera to earnestly ensure that audience thoroughly understands what he is saying. The reliance on the video camera moments also enhances the honesty of what he is saying – it can’t be taken back as it is on record.
From Scaramouche’s childhood in Trinidad to becoming a Nazi grave digger digger to finally becoming an entertainer in London, Butcher extraordinarily uses language to really capture every element of the character’s life in inventive ways that draws the audience in. This is then delivered by Richie in a poetic way that makes the observations feel even more poignant. It is really beautifully expressed in the way in which Scaramouche explains how he would entertain the children being sent to their deaths by the Nazis. It is a powerful moment enhanced chillingly by the sound effects that bring to life the horror of what he saw as he was digging mass graves for the holocaust victims during the war.
Throughout it all, there is a strong sense of theatricality visually that is highlighted through Andrew Exeter’s gorgeous designs that give the production even more focus as well as an intimate space for Richie to express his character physically – making for some really striking moments. Meanwhile, the sound effects used are effective in bringing certain scenes to life whether it is the sound of the sea or the sound of audience’s applause and cheering – it is so tantalising that it really takes you into Scaramuche’s mind and memories. However, the music in places can be slightly overpowering for the dialogue and could be turned down a touch.
But of course it is Richie’s performance that really holds it all together. He is brilliant at the story-telling and the way in which he expresses himself throughout is mesmerising to watch. You feel his emotion and the way in which some of his memories are haunting him in a really powerful way. There is also a real sense of urgency that increases subtly – reminding himself and us of his mortality. Simply superb.
Overall, this is a wonderfully intimate but absorbing experience that will haunt you after the show finishes.
By Emma Clarendon
Scaramouche Jones will be available to watch from today until the 11th April via Stream.Theatre. Update: due to popular demand, it is now being re-streamed from the 3rd to the 16th May through Stream.Theatre.