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We go wandering at nightToo real for words

A trio of young actor-playwrights take a long deep look at how life presents itself to youth in today’s Britain.
Review by Corinna Lotz.

We Go Wandering at Night navigates the rough seas of ethics, morals and politics in a production that is so much of our time that it hurts.

Brendan Murphy as Adam gives a bravura performance mingling memory, pain, and vulnerability. Alone in a scruffy waiting room desperate for a smoke, he awaits his turn, boredom punctuated by a disembodied voice (Daniel Doidge) over a loudspeaker. But his turn for what?

In an ironic take on telephone queuing, a female voice alternates with blaring muzak as Adam is told to keep on waiting. Though, rather like Josef K. in Kafka’s The Trial, Adam never actually discovers why he is where he is or who or what he is expecting.

His interminable wait is a surreal fusion of  what it is like to queue in a post office, a hospital, outside a court room, on a visit to a psychiatric counsellor or hovering in purgatory, uncertain whether your destination is heaven or hell. In a tragi-comic stream of consciousness, Adam oscillates between boredom, fantasy and supposed guilt - always under the surveillance of an invisible Inquisitor general.

As time passes, Adam evokes painful childhood memories of being expelled from school, being “busted for stealing a Mars bar”, being accused, brutally punished and abused by his father, when in fact his only crime was “listening to too much Radiohead”.

Paul Ham’s verbal flows are reeled out with gusto by Brendan Murphy in hilarious tragi-comic passages, sometimes breaking into rhyming rap. Thus a breezy weekend road trip in a clapped out Escort to Newquay’s night spots ends up in a booze-ridden punch-up in a Tesco car park. He tries, unsuccessfully to protect the memory of his relationship with Eve from his interrogators. He seems fated to land in trouble, whatever he does.

Adam wanders like a lost soul through the purgatory of his increasingly aimless existence, in a “dark night of the soul” set in the 21st century. He becomes an archetypal Everyman symbolic of the post-punk generations of the 1990s.

“The Voice” asks Adam: “What do you believe?

Adam: I don’t know about belief but I’ll tell you what I know, this, all this, is an illusion…to satisfy our need for security.

The Voice: What was your dream?

Adam: (stabs out cigarette): You can’t have a dream if you can’t sleep. (beat) Is there a point to this? Can I ask you a question?

The Voice: What would you like to know?

Adam: Is there a McDonald’s in heaven?

The Voice: Why don’t you ask me something else?

Adam: Do you love me?”

Quick-fire monologues demand a great deal especially from the lead, who is alone on the stage for most of the play.  Ham, as the duplicitous Mr Deus, tries to ensnare Adam further, like a smooth-talking US lawyer going in for plea-bargaining. But he only deepens the young man’s predicament, torturing him with more questions and the thought of his girlfriend.

Instead of despairing as funds vanish due to Arts Council cuts, Paul Ham, Daniel Doidge and Brendan Murphy have created their own not-for-profit company called Define Choice and invite others to get involved.

We Go Wandering at Night by Paul Ham is at the Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn, until August 15

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