Ambitious caretaker Davey (Scott Howland), his best friend Andrew (Jace Moody), and their older colleague Tom (Mark Niel) write and rehearse a play but never get to perform it in front of anyone. Set in the north-east of England, the show has some interesting scattered accents but it’s ultimately disappointing. Written by Howland and directed by Harriet Taylor, Nothing To Perform simply tries to take on too many things at once never finalising any of the themes.

Tackling friendship, Alzheimer’s Disease, career paths, and devilish employers with supernatural features, Nothing to Perform is sadly inconclusive. However, Howland and Moody are a joy to watch. Their chemistry and attitude towards each other are at the heart of the play, and from the very beginning they establish solid and straightforward performances. Howland’s portrayal is genuine and heartfelt, finding a perfect match in Moody’s fear of vulnerability and brotherly love. Their relationship to Tom is a compelling side of the show, maybe even worthy of expansion and examination.

From being introduced as a dull old man who just does what he’s told to support Davey’s cause, Niel takes his character on a subtle and too small journey. This supporting case is generally reduced to stereotypically-acted caricatures. Fletcher (Andy Newton-Lee) is portrayed exactly as you’d expect a straight man would play a gay man if he’d never seen one in real life; the unnamed possible-employer/ the-devil-himself (Garry Hayden) is demonic and fascinating, but feels out of place and out of tune in a piece like this. Hayden, however, is fascinating and dominates the exchanges with his stage presence.

The script, albeit frustratingly average as a whole, shows that there is certainly something in Howland. Some parts flow better than others and the few instances where his style rises to a solemn tone are buds that can flourish splendidly if given the chance to develop. By trying to be too much, Howland loses sight of the main story. Intriguing hints like the sudden kick-off with the playwright/ actor saying that the performance has been cancelled (a lady in the audience actually got up to leave admitting how sad she was) and concluding it on the same tone, feel like they are wasted in a graveyard of ideas.

Taylor’s direction makes the best out of the large stage, using The Cockpit’s spaces wisely and dynamically. Her grasp on certain characters (especially the supporting cast) could be tighter, as the difference between tonalities is striking and rather sticky. Her directorial decisions might be rather odd and worrying at times, but it’s undeniable that little details such as having the posters and scripts blank are of importance in the future turnout of the production.

A mix of comedy, farce, and even tragedy, Nothing to Perform is decisively confused. Howland has potential as a writer and so can save his play from itself, dodging the clichés and shaping it up into an unequivocal piece.

 

★★☆☆☆

Nothing To Perform plays The Cockpit until 13 August 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets for other shows in the Camden Fringe, click here.