Tag Archives: Callum Cameron

“Neck or Nothing” at the Pleasance Theatre

The idea behind Christopher Neels’ and Callum Cameron’s play has potential. Using an inventor to examine men’s mental health is a neat experiment. The agoraphobic oddball Jens makes an amenable hero, easily recognisable as a geek who attempts to deal with childhood trauma by creating an invincible suit and become a real-life superhero. It’s not a bad way to examine what might be thought a peculiarly masculine, yet distinct from macho, effort to escape from real problems and genuine discussion. Getting a laugh out of a serious topic is fine, but the jokes here just aren’t good enough. Ironically, the humour feels like a cop-out so that the play, like Jens, doesn’t engage with the big issues it raises.

Neels and Cameron also direct and are a little too indulgent with their text. This is a short show that drags at times and has too many tentative moments. But they are lucky with their cast, a trio of performers who manage to make the three main roles consistently appealing. James Murfitt takes the lead as Jens, likeable even during his delusions of grandeur, conveying his mania with refreshing subtlety. The support Jens obtains from his brother is credible through the efforts of David North, while his long-suffering partner becomes increasingly interesting in the capable hands of Katy Daghorn.

While the characters aren’t badly written, and are certainly well performed, the play’s structure is messy and there are too many questionable decisions along the way. Things are fine when we’re confined to Jens’ workshop/garage – his world is, by turns, entertaining and moving. But nearly all the other scenes are tacked on, a couple feel like sketches written for something else, and the cast are overwhelmed with extra roles that go nowhere. The action meanders and the conclusion is poor. You can bet that what the super suit should look like was a subject of debate with designer Sophia Pardon and the outcome is funny. But Neck or Nothing would feel much fuller if Jens had just a little more credibility and, as a result, his family more reason to indulge him. Pardon’s video projections, scenes from films and the bears that are the focus of Jens’ fears, are far more effective, but the show relies too heavily on them. It’s admirable that they provide structure and insight, but it’s unfortunate that they also highlight the script’s flaws.

Until 4 May 2019


Photo by Veronika Casarova

“After Party” at the Pleasance Theatre

Like Edward Albee’s Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, James Meteyard’s play explores a (metaphorical) hangover from years of trauma and delusion. Opening with a debauched celebration, nicely summarised, we join a group of mid-twentysomethings slowly discovering their grief over a tragedy that happened at college. In this drama about adult friends living together, the ambition is impressive, but the results are uneven.

The humour is on one note but delivered well; especially by Atilla Akinci, whose character is the only one removed from past events (using him more could have aided exposition). A bigger problem is the dialogue around those big sex and death themes – horribly stilted and painfully long winded. Will is the troubled lead with a secret – credit to Jamie Chandler for dealing with some clunky lines. One analogy – something to do with a scab – is so laboured that I glazed over. Chief culprit in the bar-room philosophy stakes is Will’s “bro” Harlan, who has an attraction for abstractions that Alex Forward braves valiantly. Injecting some much-needed realism into the group is Megan Pemberton’s Phoebe – the only character even trying to act her age. Cat Robey’s direction needs to speed this indulgence up considerably.

James Meteyard and Callum Cameron
James Meteyard and Callum Cameron

Tiresome heart to hearts, accompanied by far too much forehead slapping and exasperated sighs, are in stark contrast to scenes of tension. The group’s old friend Max’s release from prison and arrival ‘home’ are superb: the mood changing instantly and the suspense terrific. It’s a small role for Callum Cameron, but he steals the show and brings out the best in his colleagues, particularly former partner and unforgiving ex-pal played by Eleanor Crosswell and Olivia Sweeney respectively. Meteyard also performs here – well, it should be added – arguing the case for Max while his own character’s agenda creates a tense undertow.

There’s a suspicion this confrontational scene was the kernel for the play – it’s strong enough – but it takes forever to arrive. Too much effort is expended on giving time to each member of the ensemble. There’s a bold end, but it’s a shame this scene is the only one that feels hurried. Overall, a work with potential that needs polish.

Until 26 March 2017


Photos by Isaac Whittingham