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Albertís Boy
Published on Tuesday, 21 May 2013

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1 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
18-19, 25-27 May, 4:00pm-5:20pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.

An aging Albert Einstein is troubled by his distant relationship with his son, and an all-too-present guilt about creating the atom bomb. Add in a missing cat, and it’s no wonder he’s having trouble explaining everything in the universe. When his friend Peter arrives to stay, newly returned from the Korean War, Albert’s pacifism is put to the test by the highly-visible effects of a prolonged conflict.

So far, so promising. Unfortunately the reality of Albert’s Boy doesn’t quite match the expectations. The strong concept of the burden of nuclear war isn’t satisfactorily explored, because the characters fail to develop past blunt caricatures. Einstein is a bumbling professor with no socks and an all-too-obvious preoccupation; his guest is the haunted war veteran popping non-specific pills at an alarming rate, the bottle also jangling alarmingly in the actor’s pocket with every step across the stage. Both characters lack the subtlety required for such a subject.

The props were a recurring problem, from the clichéd quaffing of glasses of whiskey large enough to floor a horse, to the instant appearance of a gigantic sandwich after Albert has stepped off stage for the briefest of seconds. This is not a play generally unpractised in the art of pausing, and this is a sandwich of truly architectural proportions. Admittedly, the script calls for it to be large, but as the professor lifts it towards his face you don’t need a Nobel Prize in Physics to know that it’s not going in. There then follows an awkward bit of not biting into The Sandwich and waving it around a while, which is only saved by Peter vomiting into a bin, because he’s been in a war.

I’m generally of the opinion that when the script is good, do it fast, and if it’s not gold, do it faster. Albert’s Boy is a play based around two men talking, and the snappier the dialogue the less the danger of slipping into ever-lengthening pauses. There was a fair amount of playing for time to recall lines, which didn’t help, especially as the play was already advertised as an hour and 20 minutes – around the upper limits for a Fringe venue. And when the show was still ploughing on a full 20 minutes after this scheduled end time, I have to say I lost any of my remaining sympathy… meaning that by the final monologue I was simply eager for it to stop.

While long pauses may be self-indulgent, and slow dialogue can underestimate the ability of the audience to follow the plot, overrunning by more than 20 minutes can surely be no accident. If the show is an hour and 45 minutes with no interval, then it should say so; or better yet, be trimmed to a more appropriate length. I don’t doubt that effort was put into creating the show, and it isn’t completely without charm. But, like the sandwich, it needs to be cut significantly before it’ll be palatable.

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