Saturday, 11 October 2014

Harry Lloyd : Notes From Underground ****



[October 8th] There before my very eyes was Harry Lloyd but, due to my own ignorance, it was only until the next day that I realised it was the Game of Thrones and Doctor Who star. Blissfully I sat there, eye-to-eye, in front of him as he snuggled up to a rag, arm in a sling, on a decomposing armchair. Peering through the corner of my eye, resisting the temptation to blush, I was aware of the lead actor’s attractiveness, under his greasy hair, bushy moustache and beard, even if he instilled the most unlikeable character.

Lloyd’s performance was hypnotising. His ability to entice and enunciate all that there was in this Victorian fear-and-loathing character, as portrayed in Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novella Notes from Underground, made complete sense for a complicated and mentally challenging monologue of a play.

On the Coronet’s brand new stage, Lloyd represents a misanthropist who locks himself away from society. He’s a veteran actor who proved he understood the text – he also knew how to manoeuvre on the little stage comprised of (I reckon) 1500 hardback books stacked on top of each other. The Nottinghill Coronet, newly owned by the theatre company The Print Room, as you and I, may, know it is a cosy, red-lit, three tier cinema with a proscenium arch, yet now it is part of a five year renovation plan to make it into a larger theatre. However, without delay, the little auditorium encompassing the French director, Gerald Garutti‘s Notes from the Underground is ready to get The Print Room on the road.

The novella has influenced such existential antiheroes from Travis Bickle to Gregor Samsa and their ramblings of abhorring the world and the mundane constraints of societal frameworks, questioning human actions, free will, wants and desires. This anonymous and hyper sensitive Russian is fixated on logic, reason, the human condition and is overwhelmed by deeper philosophical ideas that challenge his being and ability to live.

Looking closely into Lloyd’s dark and reclusive man, we perceive an uncontrollable persona tainted by his own self awareness; his shuffling, anger, shouting, whispering, muttering and inward insecurities convey the sense of a man full of contradictions. Confidently he speaks to a phantom audience by addressing the air, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ which leads onto anecdotes of his life above; some funny, some odd and some uncomfortable to listen to. He confesses his fear of walking into a well-to-do man, his complex over a dinner with old school friends and his cruel behaviour towards a girl. 
Garutti, the designer and director of the 70 minute show cleverly dressed him in moderate Victorian costume but not too elaborate that the audience can’t empathise with. They first presented the production in a nightclub in Paris in the Bains-Douche and the Atelier Delacroix which proved successful and shall undoubtedly be the case at the Print Room as well.

In an interview with Matt Trueman, arts editor for the Guardian, Lloyd told him, ‘We can all go there on occasion… where you just get wrapped up and twisted in your brain and you understand that, logically, there really is no point and no way out; the place where you are completely alone and can’t share anything.’ In many, or very little, ways there are traces of this cynic in us all mired by the additive and scattered nature of social media and news traffic. 
Unsettling and, at times, hard to keep up with, given the mash up of anecdotes and existentialism, Notes from Underground is a good watch if you like Mr Lloyd but, more importantly, if you fancy being pushed out of your comfort zone, or  society for a moment, just like our Russian 'scuzz'.  

The production is showing until November 1st. Book tickets here.