Diary of a Madman (Page 141)
Venue C Chambers St(Venue no 34)
Reviewer Neil Ingram.
Is there no escape from the drudgery of being a clerk?. As hard as you try, the supervisor is always on your back, and you can only fantasize about escaping to be something more important.
The hero of Gogol's tale describes with increasing frustration how he survives his mundane existence, and dreams of what might happen. He keeps a diary, at first noting the everyday details of pen-sharpening and copying. “I could be a general” he says, as he dreams of a life with his Director’s attractive daughter, Sophie. He then starts to note down conversations between Sophie’s pet dog and another dog, but realises something strange is going on when the dogs start talking about writing letters. And his delusions finally take over when he reads a newspaper article about the problems in finding a new King of Spain, and he finds himself transported to
Shaban Arifi is excellent as the madman, prowling around his apartment, acting out his ever more fanciful dreams of advancement and success. You really want him to succeed, but you know that reality will eventually catch up with him and confine him even further. This is a clever portrayal of a mind unravelling, with occasional beams of lucidity piercing the lowering gloom of madness.
© Neil Ingram
Runs to August 30 every day..
Company – Act Provocateur International
Diary of a Madman ÙÙÙÙ
C (Venue 34)
ONE-MAN shows work well in Fringe conditions. One Man Rant triumphed two years ago, and Diary of a Madman, which tackles similar issues, must triumph in 2004.
In the crypt-like conditions of C, there is an overpowering sense of claustrophobia as Sheban Arih’s portrayal of the delusional ravings of an office clerk casts its spell. At first, the story of Nikolai Gogol’s middle-ranking bureaucrat appears to be simply confessional and there is something earnest and engaging about his tales of talking dogs and comic reasoning of the unreasonable. Gradually, though, the path of his mind becomes ever more twisted and traits that were formerly endearing become increasingly disturbing.
It is not so much his own situation that provokes discomfort, though, but the reaction of those around. The sensitive treatment of his character in the script and in Arih’s presentation encourages examination of why madness is regarded with such fear.
Kosovan-born Arih is highly charismatic and his character’s successive emotions are charted with perceptiveness and conviction. The clerk is a Caliban of sorts, a man fallen from favour to be beaten by sticks by his former masters yet in whose words there is more truth than those around him can know. His monologue is a tribute to the imagination and Arih’s impish interpretation is mesmerising in its intensity.
Until 30 August.
Insanity has always provided rich pickings for theatre, and this play
continues in that fine, if rather crowded, tradition. The play centres on a
civil servant who stands alone on the stage for the duration, reading entries
from his diary (while going off on often amusing tangents) that recall how he
ended up in an insane asylum. The role of the Madman is performed by Shaban
Arifi, whose occasionally startling acting matches the play perfectly; monologues
like this live or die by their actor, and here a very subtle plot is made
arresting by Arifi’s performance.
Drams (1 - unmissable, 3 - good, 5 - very bad).
Venue C Electric. (formerly the Odeon) (Venue 50).
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
One thing is certain, Shaban Arifi is a name to remember. Whether partaking in ensemble work in Act Provocateur International, or starring a one-man show, Arifi's unstoppable zing shines through in whatever circumstances. On this occasion he mounts the monumental task of bringing to life Gogol's classic tale of one man's spiralling descent into madness, and he attacks it with gusto.
Madman's Diary (sometimes also published under title A Diary of a Madman)reflects Nikolai Gogol's lifelong fascination with the weird and the demonic. Under Victor Sobchak's direction the play becomes an intimate sojourn into the recesses of human irrationality, a quest for identity, and a personal statement against social marginalisation. Arifi embraces Gogol's dark humour and embodies the protagonist whose soul is being eaten away by unrequited love and delusions of grandeur. He makes most of the less than perfect space in C Electric, breaking away from the tiny stage of the old musty cinema, bouncing off his audience, demanding a response to his antics, and winning their attention and sympathy almost instantly.
While Arifi's act is spot on, the technical side of the show leaves much to be desired. Arifi is a dangerous actor, responding to audiences' emotions and his own inner vibrations, he is never still, and he uses every inch of the performance space. The young lighting crew had difficulty in catching up with him, sometimes leaving parts of the stage in semi-darkness, unwittingly obstructing the performer's movements. This is a shame, because with a different technical backup this show would come across as much stronger. Hence three drams for the crew, none for the player.
Review of The Diary of a Madman
"Exceptionally mad one man’s show" by Catarina Toscano for remotegoat
Since the moment the man enters the room towards his desk
the nervousness and inner tension is sensed: there is something mad about this
Avoiding the common-sense twitching often used when madness is represented, Andy McQuade's glazed eyes open wider as the madness takes over the man. Throughout the play the crescendo is clear. Andy masterly changes his expression all over the personalities he meets - the lovely lady, two speaking dogs, his co-workers and boss and eventually men taking him to the mental hospital, or to
Sanity and insanity are intensely separated recreating the internal fight of the Madman perfectly: his voice loud or low; his manners subtle or inflated; as he is seen from the outside or the inside. When he is just a minor civil servant he bows obsequiously to everyone he meets, constantly humiliated by the lousiest man. While inside he is strong, self -confident, standing straight when revealing to the audience that actually the clerk is just a clever disguise of his royalty, who he really is, is the King Ferdinand of
The performance is completely framed by the soundtrack: from "Singing in the Rain" to speedy Spanish anthems! Intriguing setting details such as the straitjacket which initially is set as a table cloth, suggesting maybe that the mental illness was always present but concealed to the first sight. Also the dressing gown with thin golden stripes may look a bit too much for a poor middle class clerk. However it perfectly fits the King of Spain.
This story of a troubled low class clerk constantly humiliated by superiors at work; despised by his loved one and awfully lonely, who finds comfort only in his madness is acknowledged as one of Gogol's best short stories. It is also referred to as one of the first texts approaching schizophrenia. With these two premises in mind, the expectation was high. A great script can often be a burden, rising expectations and vulnerable to comparison. Yet the text was rather a tool not a burden for Andy as he extraordinarily gives life to his complex character.
Madman's Diary integrates the "Festival of one-person shows" hosted by Act Provocateur International at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 23rd December. The play by Gogol, directed by Victor Sobchak and performed by Andy McQuade's is a brilliant one man show.