Half A Person: My Life As Told By The Smiths

3
At the King's Head Theatre
By Orlando - 28th Jan 2014

Half a Person reviewA lovely hook: the back catalogue of one of the greatest bands of the 80s; filled with maudlin lyrics, political bite and crazy, highly metaphorical poetry. The Smiths we a major influence on anyone who heard them and their breakup in 1987 rocked the rock world at home and internationally. With titles such as The Queen is Dead, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, Strangeways Here We Come and Bigmouth Strikes Again – the titles alone would create an interesting narrative for any play-cum-monologue. The group, interestingly, were once accused of undertones of pedophilia in their lyrics – much denied at the time. So a wonderful and rich, theme-fuelled catalogue on which to hang this story.

In the hands of the very Charming Man Joe Presley, who plays William (yes he sings William, It Was Really Nothing), this slight yet highly enjoyable hour swiftly passes by as William relives his love-found and love-missed. Sexual ambiguity and self-obsession becomes his mirror to The Smiths and Morrissey himself. Unfortunately it just does not hang together as a story and the whole execution feels shoehorned into tricky corners. Unfathomably, William, obsessed with The Smiths, dedicated to finding every LP, EP and single was not aware that the group had split. A real shame, as I truly feel there is a great show here just waiting to be released!

Interspersed with some spookily conjured vocals, akin to the man himself, we were given snippets of songs, which snuggly fitted into the narrative. Some beautifully sung as a fan, and some as an impersonator. No matter which rendition, the songs illuminated the work and, for my money, we needed a whole lot more of this. The selling of the evening is The Smiths. Please let us hear more more more of them - from Presley and from underscore. The whole thing falls a little flat with no sense of the music driving the action, or underpinning it. With a touching yet, ultimately, well-trodden story of boy meet girls, man in love with boy, boy does not realise man is in love, boy loses girl, boy loses man… we just need more meat on the bone!

All that said, Joe Presley is truly a marvelous actor. Totally engaging and he seriously knows how to deliver and land a one-liner. Then, in the flick of an eye, he can move you to a moist moment. When the flaws in the story are flushed out a little and the much-needed sense of production is duly delivered, this show, with this actor, will be a treat of a play and a wonderfully nostalgic nod to the brilliant Smiths.

Orlando Weston


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