Monday, January 28, 2008

"Barry" - January 2008

When The Citizens brochure came out Statler was quite keen on "The Blue Room". It didn't particularly appeal to me, but Borders based Rowan Tree Theatre Company's production of "Barry" caught my eye. The thought of two nights out the same week didn't appeal (plus the cost just after Christmas) so we decided to take advantage of The Citz's cheap Tuesdays and go to one each.

Isabella Jarrett has the difficult task of portraying "Barry", our eponymous hero(ine), in the bizarre tale of James Miranda Barry, a 19th century doctor who spent most of his career in the military. The reason for what seems slightly strange casting is that Barry is now strongly believed to have been a woman, and this is Frederic Mohr's dramatisation of how this complicated deceit occurred.

We've seen before in "Venus As A Boy" how a story can be told by a single actor, and this is another good example of this. Jarrett puts in a strong performance weaving the tale from her childhood in Ireland as Margaret, to her decision to become a doctor and achieving this by becoming a boy and continuing to live as a man. Using a variety of accents and attitudes the different characters that form this charade are given substance, and most importantly the different aspects of Barry are clearly differentiated. The change of costume and persona between the first and second acts is quite startling in its simplicity.

The in the round staging of the Studio Theatre works well as the audience are drawn into the tale. There were a couple of lines fluffed, but when you're the sole performer this is entirely forgivable and didn't disturb the flow of the piece.

One final comment has to go to the programme. Quite often this just gives you names and biographies of the cast if you're lucky. Given the historical basis of this piece it was fantastic to have a "Barry Chronology" giving you the timeline and details of Barry's life. For a history geek this was a lovely way of fleshing out some details. The spoiler warning at the start of the chronology was also appreciated, as it advised delaying reading it until after the performance.

"Barry" is touring until 9th February.