The cast has only two characters: Richard Parker 1, and Richard Parker 2. Poor Player Productions’ Richard Parker, directed by James Watts, and starring Jake Boswall and Ieuan Perkins, is a play about two unfamiliar men with the same name thrown together on the deck of a ship at sea. Their chance encounter is one part in a chain of events linking the two Richards. Being stranded at sea for without food or fresh-water, the two undergo an intensely cathartic and revelatory ordeal with their relationship exploring the links between fate and coincidence.
Jake Boswall as Richard Parker 2, with his wearied cabin-fever and voice of sanity, brilliantly complements the frivolous and enigmatically nonchalant Richard Parker1. We, the audience, can identify with Boswall’s physically and emotionally drained character, prone to panic and melancholy, whereas Perkins’ Parker offers an extremely watchable and comically immature characterization in the face of palpable hardship. Both characters are steeped in writer Owen Thomas’s comic style, an incongruous surrealism in wild and uncomfortable crises. Such a style is exemplified in Parker 1’s melancholy lament about his first experience of death, which he wistfully explains was when he poked a piece of chicken down a plug hole. Parker 2’s ignorance of his own character flaws, and his inability (or is it refusal?) to grasp the gravity of the situation lends his character to some hilariously absurd moments of normality and calm in the storm.
Such conflicts of character give rise to a black comedy which releases itself in the intensity of the situation. Ieuan Jones aptly described his relationship with Jake Boswall’s character almost being “domestic” at times. There’s much truth in that, despite the two being relative strangers to each other; their physical and psychological isolation forces them to clash and meld their personalities, much to amusement of those watching. There’s an evident rapport between Boswall and Jones which makes this two-man play first and foremost about their fascinating relationship.
Central to the play is the clash between chance and fate, with Richard Parker 2 obsessed by fate and historical coincidence. The mystery of what has brought these two stranded namesakes together promises to hold a gripping attraction throughout the progression of the narrative.
The script itself is sharp and memorable, and I have no doubt it contains many a quotable line, and it crucially enhances the atmosphere of discord, tension, fear and thought. Under the direction of James Watts, the lines have been lifted to convince the audience very early on to invest in these characters and their relationship. This is best seen in an electrified moment in which Parker 1 deceives Parker 2 by dramatically claiming to see a shark in the water, in order to eat the last sardine of Parker 2’s tin – which he absurdly refuses to share with the deliriously starving Parker 1.
The play is going to be performed in the intimate – to recycle its overused epithet – Burton Taylor Studio, whose minimal design and space should definitely contribute to the claustrophobic restlessness and to the personality clash over the mundane and existential which should make this show a raucously laugh inducing treat of black comedy.
Richard Parker will be performed from Tuesday to Saturday of Second Week at the Burton Taylor Studio, at 19:30.