Misterman review: Lyttelton Theatre, April 19th
Rich in darkly comic humour and Catholic guilt, a very precise element of Irish culture resonates throughout Misterman. Written by Hunger / Disco Pigs screenwriter and playwright Enda Walsh and performed by current Clash cover star Cillian Murphy, it recalls Pat Shortt’s hilarious and tragic role in 2007’s oddball comedy Garage, or an otherworldly Father Ted in which Dougal slowly loses his mind as Ted and Jack decompose on the sofa.
Unburdened by the nine-hundred souls who will glare relentlessly at him over the next ninety minutes, Murphy wastes no time in marking his territory over the sprawling, quasi-industrial wasteland of a stage. As Thomas Magill, a rambling misfit who casts his fierce judgement over each of his town’s low-moral inhabitants, Murphy skirmishes around with a lunatic disregard for his own health with bold enthusiasm for boisterous physical comedy. Interacting with an array of recorded voices and other creative sound tricks, the role also calls for Murphy to mimic the spoken nuances of many of the other villagers. It’s a hugely impressive embodiment of a God-fearing spirit, not least because of Magill’s increasingly erratic state of mind.
Such a performance can only flourish in the presence of suitably compelling material. Although there’s no doubt that Walsh’s script won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it certainly demonstrates an immense command of language. From simple wordplay and catty dismals to absurd, demonic moments of black humour wrapped up in misplaced beatitudes, it’s a fascinating feast of dexterous linguistics.
While Misterman has its flaws – the searing atmosphere established by the final scene is undersold by a reasonably predictable conclusion, while some of the lengthier soliloquies result in momentarily flagging attention spans – it burns with an intensity born from writer and performer alike.