Big Wow is a theatre company like no other. Now in the habit of showcasing new comedy work every January at the Unity, their latest shows no fear of getting stuck in a rut. In fact, they do more with their formula than ever before.
The Art of Falling Apart ,the newie from writer Robert Farquhar and performers Matt Rutter and Tim Lynskey, is Big Wow turned up to eleven. It mirrors Farquhar’s last big work, last year’s Dead Heavy Fantastic [Everyman], but proves itself more interesting than its predecessor despite having a fraction of the resources to hand – including bodies.
Rutter and Lynskey need nothing more than themselves and a couple of chairs to tell a completely spellbinding tale that takes the audience from an office, to the after-work leaving do, the train station, a house party, and into what becomes a lost weekend – introducing dozens of characters along the way.
It’s a fascinating approach to storytelling. Rutter plays Callum, a bewildered 33-year-old unsure of what his life is amounting to, as well as slipping into other roles as required. Lynskey plays a whole host of characters Callum stumbles across over the course of the evening, as his mental state unravels. (Anyone who saw Dead Heavy Fantastic will remember that play ran along very similar lines, following a naïve divorcee out of his depth on a night out in Liverpool). It is funny and brilliant.
We’re not just talking walking off stage as one character and coming back on as another in a different hat; these transformations are little whirlwinds, a turn on a heel and change of accent and posture convincingly changing an actor from a drug-addled Scouser to a Cockney wideboy, or a lairy Mancunian back to our increasingly anxious Scottish hero. That sounds even worse than walking back on in a different hat actually, but there’s something about the way the two actors completely inhabit every role, to appear even as if Callum is having a conversation with two others at the same time, that is as baffling as it is absolutely thrilling. You really feel as if you’re watching a scene in a crowded bar – but it’s always just the pair of them. The discipline required is enormous; if you were getting anything less than 110% from them, it just wouldn’t work. An audience is rewarded by seeing two performers who really do appear to be at the top of their game.
This combination of a witty, razor-sharp script and huge, dynamic performances makes this a work of awe-inspiring intensity. Not only do Rutter and Lynskey share an incredible chemistry but their boundless energy really is something to behold. It’s a masterclass in clowning, but with extra blood, sweat and tears.
The Art of Falling Apart just shines. It is practically perfect contemporary theatre, everything you may have come to expect from Big Wow – and more. Catch it at the Unity until January 28.