Richard Bean is a notoriously humorous playwright. His previous works of One Man, Two Governors and the recent play Great Britain (which I gave a rather favourable review) rightfully allowed for a degree of anticipation when I heard about his new play Pitcairn. I expected an enjoyable evening of wit and excitement as I had done with his previous plays. Unfortunately, this was not the case. My expectations were initially high but soon sank as the play failed to pick up any reasonable pace or interest. Perhaps the fault can be found in my expectations, however, I would not say they were justified after seeing Bean’s previous outstanding work.
The production’s immense potential floundered in the dialogue that could only be seen as humorous if your range of humour is spectacularly immature. Phallic references galore blighted the production, which could either be taken as a garish attempt at bringing some artistic merit to the show or simply a cheap attempt at garnering laughs from the audience. I viewed it as the latter, which failed spectacularly, as there seemed to be an air of awkwardness within the audience as joke after joke fell flat with only a polite titter of laughter in response.
With that said, the production does have some merits. The dedicated and talented cast did their best to carry the production. A significant portion of the praise has to go to the lead Tom Morely as Fletcher Christian for his spectacular portrayal of a man torn apart by a series of increasingly unfortunate events on Pitcairn, which should have been paradise for the English sailors. The cast reacted well to audience participation, managing to create some rare laughs with ad-libbing which was truly the highlight of the production. The play has an incredibly passionate second act, requiring a great deal of acting prowess which was easily met by the talented cast.
Another saving grace is that the creative team behind the production did absolutely wonderfully. The stage was dynamic, effortlessly creating new scenes with the same props with only a small change of lighting, with various dramatic entrances and exits that added (or in most cases, created) to the drama of the play. The lighting and music were expertly used, creating the visions of resting on a Pacific island the moment you entered the theatre. It can very easily be said that the creative team and cast did far more to create the illusion of paradise than Richard Bean’s disappointing script.
Overall, this is a play that is the true definition of ‘trying too hard. ’In these difficult times for the arts, it is understandable that more dramatic steps may be taken to fill seats however, this production oversteps this line, to such extent that it is cringe-inducing and frankly embarrassing for actors and a creative team who can do far better than this dull piece of drama. My main advice for this play would be to go in with no preconceived notions of what you are about to see. Indeed, if this had not been advertised as a comedy, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more. Go in entirely unprepared, and you may find it entertaining.
This piece was originally published by The Boar on 24/10/2014 and forms part of my previous portfolio.