Darkly comic and technologically astounding, ErictheFred is a spectacular show encompassing everything that one hopes contemporary theatre can be. Profoundly moving one minute, outrageously silly the next, the performance twists and turns amidst a full range of human experience as it grapples with a character pushed to the very edge.
That character – ErictheFred – is a disgraced clown, portrayed by the play’s creator and sole performer, Chris Lynam. Lynam’s clowning is masterfully intelligent, precise and endlessly creative, but the raw emotion he brings to the role is what keeps the performance so very captivating. Sprawled along on his journey of wit, passion and imagination, we are immersed in an incredible landscape, indebted to the wonders of modern technology.
The stage crew were invited to take their bows alongside Lynam at the curtain call and for good reason: the use of multi-media and digital technology was every bit as essential to the show as Lynam’s performance. A part of The Old Market’s #TOMtech season, such an active technological role was perhaps to be expected, but the sheer ambition of its inclusion in ErictheFred was phenomenal – and executed to near perfection. The constant flow of strange props, puppets, sound, music, lighting and projection was a fantastic feat of modern theatre. Each element contributed wonderfully to an atmosphere that was whimsical yet unnerving, particularly the original score which was made up of haunting ethereal soundscapes.
Most impressive was the transparent screen separating the stage from the auditorium. Projections of computer generated imagery, shadow puppets and pre-recorded footage of Lynam himself were imposed onto the screen allowing for the performer to interact seamlessly with its virtual world. Objects sprung from screen to reality and back again in an excellent display of classic stage magic and technological trickery.
Costume was designed with care and attention to detail, and Lynam’s make-up was simple yet striking, allowing him to apply it onstage as a key moment of the performance. This aided the meta quality of the production, which began with Lynam tearing off his initial costume just five minutes in; at its core this is a play about performing and what it can do to a person. This culminated in a bold and fantastic crescendo towards the end, which had the whole audience applauding and cheering, and frankly I haven’t stopped smiling about since.
It is rare that one comes across a show that is at once so technically skilled and innovative, as well as so fantastically moving as ErictheFred. This is one of those shows that you just can’t stop thinking about, and, like a child with a new favourite book, wish you could make sure the whole world got to see.
Featured Image: Chris Lynam