Review: Misterman

I have a LoveFilm subscription. Frequently, I find myself not knowing what films to add to my list. At these times I’ll pick an actor or actress and add all their films. The good, the bad and the ugly. The discoveries I have made as a result have been worth the bad films, and on the odd occasion I have been utterly blown away by the journeys and experiences these films have given me.

Jaz next to the Misterman poster outside of the National TheatreNot least, Disco Pigs. Disco Pigs got added to the list during my Cillian Murphy phase and it did not disappoint.

Originally a play by Enda Walsh, Disco Pigs was later made into a film. I had zero expectations. I didn’t even know what it was about. I popped it in the PS3, curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea and watched.

By the end of it, my cup of tea was on the floor, cold. My blanket was forgotten. I was sitting on the edge of my sofa, sobbing. I felt like I hadn’t been breathing the entire time.

I’m not going to lie, I cry at films a lot. I have a talent for suspending my disbelief and really falling into the story. This was different. I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.

A *really* good story should be an experience, it should remove you completely from where you are and it should give you an emotional reaction. That reaction doesn’t have to be sad, or truck-run-over-y, it can be happy. But it should give you something. Disco Pigs gave me a lot.

Fast forward to now. Walsh has revived his Misterman, and put Murphy at the helm.

Originally in Ireland and then New York, I cursed that it hadn’t been there when I had. Fortunately, it is now in London (and then I hear it’s off to Australia). I’m not a theatre person, but I jumped at the chance of seeing this.

I tried to refrain from reading too much about it prior to seeing it and just trusted in Walsh and Murphy’s combined talents to make it worth the visit. Again, it did not disappoint.

Misterman is 90 minutes of Murphy on stage – alone, retelling the story of one fateful day. Set in a small Irish village, it journeys through religion, relationships and, most importantly, the origins of cheesecake.

A large, and fantastically designed stage somehow manages to be filled with Murphy and his performance. The astonishing attention to detail (Fanta, anyone?) creates an atmosphere so suffocating, it’s impossible to not feel a part of it.

I’m going to give a special mention to the lighting and sound engineers here – serious kudos. The use of light and sound to build atmosphere, and help Murphy own the stage was spot on..

Walsh has a serious talent for writing mental breakdowns, it must be said. His study of human emotion is brilliant, as it was in Disco Pigs. I went from finding Thomas Magill humorous and annoying, to having empathy and a large amount of pity, despite all that happens.

Ah, the humour. Completely unexpected. The little I did read prior to going made it sound serious. And it is. But, there is humour. Especially at the beginning. Before it builds into something distressing and beautiful in its own way.

Murphy. What to say. There’s a reason he’s received and been nominated for some prestigious theatre awards. He got a standing ovation at the end, and had to do three curtain calls.

Given that he is the only person on stage, he does have to flip into other characters a lot. I wondered if this might be jarring, but it’s so cleverly done it just flows. Murphy is often described as a chameleon, and he really is.

Somehow those famed eyes of his are visible even back at row R. They seemed to scream as the play gained momentum. It is very striking to see just how much Murphy’s face changes when he’s in character. When he came back out for the curtain calls he looked like a completely different person, and all that had changed was his face.

As another audience member said on the way out, “well, I’ve never seen a play quite like that before”. I haven’t. It’s two hours later and I’m still sitting here, running it through my mind. It’s emotional, it’s brilliant, go and see it if you can.

The Theatre

Lyttleton Theatre is beautifully designed and even as far back as R the view is spectacular. There are no pillars – designed that way specifically I believe – and it’s tiered so no heads get in the way.