Man of Valour

 

Everyman Palace, Cork

ASSOCIATIVE MEMORY is the cable, slender at times but essentially trustworthy, that keeps the narrative of Man of Valourwithin the bounds of coherence. Just.

Relying on the shared recognition of collateral connections, on the human ability to unite the threads that spin off as one experience prompts the recollection of another, this Corn Exchange production is both daring and gratifying.

Initially, Paul Reid’s office worker is defined by the clicks and swishes of desperately ordinary life; the audience delights in the challenge of identification as latches are opened and locked, cupboard doors swing and water-cooler man brings doom-laden news of a move to Roscommon.

Ventriloquist, mime and athlete, Reid creates a cast in this one-man performance, his transformations sometimes, as in the graveyard scene, achieving the status of transfiguration.

The play, however, is more than its method or style, diverting as they may be; it is another way of telling a human story, and as its sequences accumulate against Aedin Cosgrove’s blue-gray lighting and video projections heralded by Denis Clohessy’s sound compositions, they also become more challenging in concept and in execution.

Reid, as Farrell Blinks, can’t help wandering off into the roomier spaces of his imagination, layered with the interactions of modern existence, heightened by memory, remorse, bewilderment or by simple wishful thinking.

This is rich territory for the talent of writer Michael West, but Annie Ryan’s direction keeps likelihood somewhere on the horizon of phantasmagorical landscapes.

Pressing his palms against invisible but resistant windows, discouraging an enthusiastic cat, or struggling submerged in a river flowing nowhere, Reid invests this decentralised man with something more than pathos and a lot more than fun in a show that emphasises the skills connected by Corn Exchange.