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Review: Astonishing piece of physical theatre
Published 14/07/14

Mike Rowbottom

THERE are times during this latest touring show at the Watermill that you are fighting for breath: it moves at such a pace.

Hardboiled: The Fall Of Sam Shadow is a mickey-take of the Raymond Chandler gumshoe genre. It takes the rise out of those “noir” films with bent cops, corrupt businessmen and politicians. The only man standing between them and justice is a down-at-heel, flawed private eye with a penchant for women, whisky and poetic metaphor.

Send-up it may be but there is evident respect for this type of drama and while we laugh at the humour and exaggerated dialogue and marvel at the physicality there is the underlying feeling that maybe we have no choice — what else can we do?

It’s at The Watermill in the same week that an inquiry is announced into all sorts of hideous alleged activities at the highest levels of politics and we are left with the feeling that in the end we are all just dust to be swept away by the powerful.

Anyway, that’s enough poetic metaphor from me as well. This show is another from Rhum and Clay with Beth Flintoff and it’s a staggering achievement. Whether it’s wholly successful is another matter, but it certainly works on different levels. Most of all it’s a physical piece with some astounding choreography done with balletic grace and timing. Two doors on casters are the only scenery and they are used as a bar, a street car, walls, cupboards and anything else...even as doors. Some of the moves are just extraordinary and you wonder what would happen if they did the whole thing as just that: a series of graceful moves.

It’s easy to take the mickey — if you reduce anything to a few lines and caricatures it can sound funny. Here it leads to restricted dialogue and not too much character development.

Never mind, the message is there and while the plot may be convoluted and familiar, it doesn’t matter, the weary gumshoe solves it and can do nothing about it — think Chinatown or The Big Sleep.

The energy of this company continues to amaze and I’d advise you to catch them soon before they grow too old to throw themselves about in this way.

• Continues to July 12. Box office www.watermill.org.uk

Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow

Watermill Theatre

Monday, July 7

PUBLISHED 14/07/14

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