Established in 2014, Pooka theatre debuts Peter Brook’s rarely staged The Man Who at The Bussey Building in Peckham. Performed by Max Calandrew, Darrell Lee Davey, Chris Thomson and Joncie Elmore, Pooka shows us how a play written over twenty years ago is still highly relevant in modern day.
The Man Who was written in 1993 in collaboration with Marie-Helene Estienne as a stage adaptation of Dr. Oliver Sacks The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Taking us on a journey through the brain suffering from neurological disorders, the play explores sixteen tales, mapping out the comic and horror of losing brain control.
If you’re not a biological expert, don’t worry. Neurological disorders are explained through demonstration by an ensemble of four highly skilled performers, who put on or take off a doctor’s coat to slip in and out of their roles as doctors and patients. The Man Who is easily translatable, and the performance as a whole is incredibly effective in its simplicity. By using only few props, the performance invites the audience to use their imagination while the actors take us outside the theatre to Paris.
From the sufferer’s perspective, the audience see what it is like to be confronted with the inability to control one’s own body – to suffer memory loss, or to be unable to wake up from a dream or even suffer from visual Agnosia and mistake your wife for a hat. The tales are incredibly human. We do not see disorders on stage, but the people are whom we recognise. I think I might finally have discovered why I didn’t get a rose for Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend must have mistaken it for thin air.
Live music creates an air of life and intimacy, and invites the audience into the mind of the characters. Together with the Japanese man who hears music that is not there, we listen to the piano and experience how real the unreal is very much existent. Intimacy is reinforced by the traverse stage, and at times, the reaction to the performance of the audience members on the other side of the stage is just as fascinating as the actors on stage.
When one of the characters uses his own spit to clean the floor, I see the woman opposite me mirror my expression of surprise. On the journey home, one wonders how much control we really have over our faces, and if perhaps we may be better off without a brain. I remember learning once about the starfish, which, if I recall correctly, does not have a brain. After ninety minutes of great performance, one wonders why this play is rarely staged. The Man Who is highly recommended and very relatable for anyone with a brain.
The Man Who runs until 21 February at The Bussey Building, Peckham. For Tickets, click here.
THE CLF ART CAFE
BLOCK A, BUSSEY BUILDING
133 RYE LANE, PECKHAM