Declan – Camden People’s Theatre, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Writer: Alistair Hall

Director: Billy Barrett

Declan, Alistair Hall’s tale of isolation, hooked viewers online during lockdown. Now, under the direction of Billy Barrett and with seamless lighting and sound design by Amy Daniels and Jamie Lu respectively, the frantic monologue proves to be quite the live experience.

Performing under a single hanging light bulb, writer/performer Hall gives an electric performance as Jimbo, a lost soul in search of his best friend Declan. The audience follows his scattered thoughts as he navigates a rough upbringing, a difficult loss and, naturally, meeting the ghost of King Edward II.

Hall has acknowledged the influences that his real life upbringing in Wiltshire had on Declan’s development. Many queer people experience homophobia and suppression in a suburban environment only to later seek freedom of city life; it is a tale as old as time. Yet Declan exists in an alternate reality and not only as a result of Jimbo’s fantastical imagination. The piece considers what life might entail for someone who doesn’t ‘get out’, and the mental health repercussions of this.

This tracks within Hall’s writing, as Jimbo certainly views his life and experiences through a somewhat dissociated lens. Within this framework of abstract storytelling, the production is able to tackle a heavy dose of dark themes and childhood trauma. That said, Hall knows exactly when a dash of humour is due to ease the tension and easily keeps the audience transfixed throughout. He physicalizes his storytelling brilliantly and performs with a conviction which is impressive to behold.

Running at just over half an hour, the production is shorter than expected, yet still feels complete. From Jimbo’s first West Country accented words, the audience are swept along on a frantic thought train that perhaps delivers more questions than answers and yet it is an enjoyable journey.

Declan received much acclaim in its original digital form and Hall’s tale has certainly translated well to the stage with every production element combining to create a highly atmospheric and cohesive work of art.

Runs until 3 December 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Highly atmospheric

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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