The Pyramids of Margate

An almost bare stage is serenaded by The Carpenters, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, the recognised anthem of World Contact Day, summing up the themes of this one man show performed by Martin Stewart, nostalgia for the seventies, the search for extraterrestrial life, and in a reflection of Karen Carpenter’s life, loneliness and the need for connection.

Arriving home from a work night out, Dan is frustrated by his failure to talk to the girl in accounts whom he has had his eye on, who he previously managed to speak to two weeks previously to ask if she had seen his favourite mug “with the blue thing on,” the only coffee mug that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Tonight she came to sit beside him, and he thinks he blew it. She’s only seen a few episodes of new Who, whereas he is obsessed with the original series, to the point of performing recreations of The Three Doctors in the pub.

“I’m picturing us cuddled up to Genesis of the Daleks,” he confesses to the audience, and it is that single minded focus which unbalances this show, less a rounded piece of theatre with an aspect of Doctor Who unashamedly cashing in on the publicity of the fiftieth anniversary than a love letter to the glory days of Pertwee and Baker turned into dramatic form.

The counterpoint to this is Dan’s obsession with the SETI at home project, his determination that it should be he who processes the data which conclusively proves the greatest discovery of all time, alien life, which he feels will give him importance, even if it is just as a footnote in history, that participation at any level will mean he belongs, yet he fails to participate in his own life, missing a date because he would rather watch his screensaver crunch numbers.

To carry a monologue for an hour requires both actor and script to be superb, and while Stewart jumps convincingly through the numerous emotional hoops, it is impossible to shake the urge to shout at Dan to get a grip on himself and get on with his life, and as the script is by Stewart himself, he deserves both the praise and the blame. As a comedic childhood reminiscence it is too obvious; while all the notes may be hit, the melody is overly familiar, and while his shuffle towards tragedy is unexpected, with so little distance to fall, his importance imparted only by others, Dan is a tree in the woods, unheard.

The Pyramids of Margate runs until 25th August

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