Writer and Performer: Andy Smith
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: New Wolsey Theatre
To understand the grand scale we often need to focus in on the minutiae. World events and social change are sometimes to vast to comprehend. Relate those changes to an individual, however, and it becomes digestible.
It’s a technique employed well by Andy Smith in The Preston Bill, a work looking a the 80year life span of Bill, from 1935-2015.
Through War, industrial development and fall, unionisation and recession, Bill’s life mirrors that of the nation. While Smith’s wordplay utilises rhyming couplets to tell much of Bill’s narrative, there’s nothing overly poetic about his life. A gritty language to reflect a gritty life.
We’re signposted along the way by speeches from the ever-shifting political leadership. Kennedy to Thatcher, Blair to Cameron. Each set of partisan rhetoric setting the tone for yet another round of societal change.
Smith is an accomplished storyteller, drawing us slowly into the world of Bill as the layers of his life unfold. With nothing but an empty chair to represent the embodiment of Preston, Smith pitches his delivery to totally hook the audience. We may not be in the town being talked about, but the milestones Bill faces are universal.
Midway through the hour-long monologue there’s a break for a spot of community singing, accompanied by Smith on the ukulele. While it is meant to conjure up the union rousing rally cry, it does somewhat lose the momentum of the piece.
It’s a minor quibble in an otherwise assured production. Smith’s down to earth style allows us to overlay our own personal history over Bill’s and ask ourselves, as Smith frequently does throughout, if ‘This is it’?
The Preston Bill has subtlety and charm, the effects of which work into your mind, long after the hour is up.
Reviewed on 26 May 2016 | Image: Contributed