“A mirror reflects a man’s face but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses”
It may be unusual for Civilian Theatre to be quoting from Proverbs but the title ‘Ablutions’ has already thrown us one rather heavy-handed piece of religious symbolism, and watching the travails of our barman/hero it is not hard to recognise that the trip he embarks upon midway through the play could have easily been towards Damascus as it was towards the Grand Canyon.
In Fellswoop’s adaptation of the debut novel from Booker Prize nominated author Patrick deWitt we are deep into the realms of the redemptive road-trip, with a side order of the cleansing power of the bottle. From what was, apparently, an already strange and lurid confection Fellswoop have given us a rather bizarre musical and mime show.
It is a play that is certainly not without its charms. The musicianship and technical ability of the cast are highly impressive. We are provided with a lovingly crafted soundscape and the cast of Eoin Slattery, Fiona Mikel and Harry Humberstone are able to recreate a complete Hollywood dive bar, with a fully stocked array of colourful regulars, through the use of physical theatre and some wonderfully grotesque characterisations.
Humberstone – perhaps given more licence than the rest to stretch his characters to the extremes – provides us with enough sleazy figures by himself to have the audience squirming in their seats. Whilst I hope that someone as disturbingly charmless as Curtis doesn’t actually exist, I have a horrible suspicion that bars around the world will prove me wrong.
The core of the story belongs to Slattery’s Barkeeper. We join him when, if he isn’t already a loser, he is fast on his way to becoming one; living a life where work, friends and drink have combined to create a spiralling descent into an alcoholic’s chaos.