“The benchmark that all young theatre companies should aim for”
Action Man follows the journey of army Corporal Liam Drury (Michael Moulton), who, upon returning home after eight years’ service, is severely affected by PTSD, causing the breakdown of his marriage and other relationships. Performed as an ensemble piece with seven actors in addition to Moulton, it pulses with the urgency of a tale that needs to be told, and interweaves choreography, sound and silhouette to convey the intensity of the action.
Rather than being a linear piece, Action Man flashes back and forwards in time, covering key moments and influential characters in Corporal Drury’s life. While early on it’s difficult to grasp the structure of the piece (when and where each scene takes place), everything soon slots into place and what’s presented is an intelligent and concise story that maintains interest and tension from start to finish. At 75 mins this performance is slightly on the lengthy side for a Fringe show, but there’s little fat to cut given the complexity of the relationships and emotions at stake – writer Lizzie Morris does very well to gauge just how much to present from scene to scene.
Moulton turns in a powerhouse performance as Drury, with seemingly unflagging energy. His impressive range of emotions across each scene makes him compelling to watch, and his emotional monologue at the PIP meeting really does tug at the heart strings. The supporting cast more than capably do their bit to build and sustain tension and drive the emotive choreography, and there’s an earnestness about their performance that demands attention.
Though while the company generally handle the topics covered in the show very well, and with sensitivity, at times they do seem slightly out of their depth. The army scenes in particular are perhaps too naïve, and the difficult conversations Drury has with his current and former partner occasionally lack the presence and power in performance for them to ring true. But given how young this company are, a little slack can be given.
In many ways this production of Action Man captures the very spirit of the Fringe – a talented and ambitious group of artists sharing a powerful story with every weapon in their arsenal – and there’s plenty of exciting stuff happening on this stage. For me, Plaster Cast Theatre are the benchmark that all young theatre companies should aim for. Bravo.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 8 August)