Marlowe Studio, Canterbury
Run The Beast Down is the third original production to be produced by Canterbury’s Marlowe Studio, following Beached and A Better Woman.
Produced in conjunction with Libby Brodie Productions, this one-man play stars Ben Aldridge as Charlie, a man who loses his job and his live-in girlfriend on the same day. His grip on the material world will surely follow shortly, especially when he becomes obsessed with a brazen urban fox, who unlocks childhood memories long since buried.
The most important thing to state here is this: Ben Aldridge’s performance is remarkable. Even when viewed as distinct from his acting, his constant appearance is noteworthy. Dressed all in black, he alone commands the stage – never leaving, rarely pausing, not even taking a sip of water; no mean feat when your voice is holding an audience rapt for 90 minutes.
The set is sparse, with simple neon strips blinking and pulsing in the background, casting an eerie light over the seven chapter titles Charlie chalks onto the black stage.
A DJ lurks in the shadows, laying down ambient soundscapes that complement the on-stage action. These largely work, though sometimes the music is slightly overpowering and unnecessarily pulls attention from the actor.
Titas Halder’s script is playful and real. In just a few lines, he’s able to create authentic characters (each inhabited briefly by Aldridge) that propel the story forward. While you’re in Run The Beast Down’s world, nothing that happens seems beyond the realm of possibility; not easy when working with a story that skirts reality.
The play loses its way slightly at the end and the smart writing and layered characterisation become something more cliche. It’s not the worst “descent into madness” you’ll see, but it’d certainly be awkward without Ben Aldridge’s restrained, naturalistic performance as an anchor.
It’s wonderful to see The Marlowe continuing its commitment to new theatre, and Titas Halder has marked himself out as a major talent to watch.
Run the Beast Down is now heading to the Finborough Theatre in London where it will play until February 25, 2017.