Tartarus and Other Stories – The Space, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Writer and Director: Simon Perrott

Oliver Longstaff gives an engaging performance as Will in the monologue Tartarus. He talks directly to the audience, although the context of his disclosures is not at first evident. Will this be a play about mental health issues? Will certainly has some whacky theories about seeing through black holes and how the human soul is a seed that grows through childhood reading and tv-watching. So he’s not a philosopher, then. Lighting signals mood changes – he tells us he is having one of his bad days. He gets angry with us – have we just come to gawp at his suffering?

He wants to tell us about a former girlfriend, Laura. We don’t get much sense of her character, but it was, he assures us, true love. When you know it, you know it, he repeats. He starts to tell us about their first holiday. The lengthy travelogue has all the zest of an elderly uncle’s commentaries on his holiday slides. Then the central episode, which is banal and shocking in equal measure. It is shocking only in that Will overshares details of a bout of food poisoning. Is the point that this puts Laura off? Apparently not. Four years later they are still together and treat themselves to a day out in London. A magical mystery tour, no less. But as they already live in London, does Laura’s sudden drop in mood mean she is finally going to spell out the monumental dullness of their life together? Perhaps this is where Will’s mental health issues surface?

But no, he hasn’t got underlying mental issues after all. Laura no sooner admits she’s feeling tired, when tragedy occurs. Will is understandably cut up about this, but now we wonder why he is telling us. Are we in some sort of group therapy session? We will never know. He is spectacularly needy and self-indulgent, but Simon Perrott’s irony-free script asks for sympathy, not judgement. Equally spectacular is the sentimentality of the ending. If Will has been in hell (Tartarus, geddit?), now he opens Pandora’s Box – so that’s what the beribboned box on the floor is – and hey, he finds Hope!!! “Without true love, you just exist” is the play’s tag line.

The companion piece, Spaced Cowboy, performed by Max Easton is an incoherent bit of whimsy about a man who thinks he’s a cowboy who somehow ends up on a new planet and meets characters including Eleanor Roosevelt and various talking animals such as a philosophical rhino and a camp northern camel. There’s meant to be a third story too, but on this night only two were performed.

Perrot’s monologues need to be intensively edited and workshopped before they are next presented to an audience.

Runs until 20 November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Underdeveloped whimsy

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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One Comment

  1. This appears to be a sneering unjust review and I have to disagree. The play was gripping as well as well acted & directed. The story was obviously written from personal experience and with heart.

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