by Michael McLaughlin, The Mercury

Peacock Theatre
20th March, 2014

A standing ovation greeted this first Tasmanian performance of Bruny Island based actor and writer Justus Neuman’s remarkable one person show. It is so richly deserved. More than the title suggests, this is a poetic and infinitely inventive meditation on the final stages of aging. It is also a masterful piece of theatre making.

Ferdinand (Neuman) is an aged tragedian, his life shrunk down to the barest of domestic detail. His one escape, the glory of past stage roles, in particular the role of King Lear. What we get, is not so much plot but an epic seventy minute exploration of a fading world, where (very funny) daily triumphs give way to crumbling memory and failing language. This is theatre interested in the big questions. Who are we without a past? Where are we- if words no longer stick?

Great art often marries breadth of vision and depth of detail. Lear’s ‘blasted heath’ is made all the more poignant, delivered by a clown who delights in a contraption for frying eggs. Shakespeare’s magic is in the text, but it is Beckett’s tramp that captures the real spirit of this production.

And what a production. Simply but effectively lit by Wolfgang Kalal. A superb sound design with original compositions by Tasmanian guitarist Julius Schwing. Greg Methe’s design is a delight. Austrian based director Hans Peter Horner doesn’t put a foot wrong from the gentlest of starts to the epic final moment.  But most of all, for those who love the art-form –  Neuman has reminded local audiences that, yes, theatre can be this good.