Travel disaster always makes unsettling viewing. Richard Parker is so nearly in this category, yet the underlying themes around fate and free will override the potential for nervousness that this genre can incite.
Does it deserve even to be categorised as a ‘black comedy’ as the blurb suggests? It does get a few titters from the audience at the opportune moments, however the comic moments are brief and fleeting. Initially, it seemed to pan out as part ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’, part ‘Silence of the Lambs’. It is neither, however. It is an interesting play about life, co-incidence and self-fulfilment vs destiny.
Richard Parker 1 (admirably played by Jake Boswell) is the half-starved, half maddened ship-wreck stuck in a boat with the maddening, or mad, Richard Parker 2 (a seemingly Ripleyesque/ Hannibal Lector character excellently played by Ieuan Perkins).
Both actors, I learnt from speaking with director James Watt, are fresher students at St. Peters College. Well done to them both, as the intensity of the play and performance are not lost despite the actors’ relative inexperience. The only moment of pure intransigence is when Richard 1, examining his life exclaims, ‘I am nearly 35!’ Writing of fact verification, James Watt claims that all the real-life references to co-incidences in the play are true; anoraks please take note.
Non-students (including this reviewer) will be reassured that the performance is gripping and mercifully short- how pleasant for mid week theatre-goers to be back home or in the pub by 9.15 with no interval. What better enticement to go and see this play, on its only second airing after the Edinburgh and Broadway Fringe (2011/2012).