Missing Persons

Published April 17, 2008

Greg Hicks is widely regarded as one of the finest stage actors of his generation. The classical theatre regular, who was last seen in London playing Coriolanus at the Old Vic, gets a chance to prove it in this new production which sees Hicks on stage, by himself, delivering five monologues in the incredibly intimate surroundings of Trafalgar Studio 2. Matthew Amer attended the first night.

For what could easily be 10 or 15 minutes, as the audience files into the compact Trafalgar Studio 2, Hicks stands as a shadow in the corner of the stage; silent, unmoving, but always looming, threatening, like the human frailties on which Missing Persons’s four tragedies are based; hate, revenge, despair and love.

For this production, designer Cleo Pettitt has flooded the Trafalgar Studio 2 stage. Above the water sits a platform of planks, fluid and arcing from wall to floor. Very few props are used, but very few are needed. All we need to know is expressed through playwright Colin Teevan’s visceral verse and Hicks’s performance; his spitting of consonants and immaculately controlled movement.

Five stories are told in just over one hour; four tales of tragedy and one, though it is concerned with the nature of male anger and posturing, that raised more than a few laughs from the first night audience.

The Bull, which uses the myth of Ouranos and Cronos as its basis, tells the tale of a man whose recurring dream is that of castrating his abusive father. Though reference is made to the man’s dead sister, we are left to draw our own conclusions.

The One Within sees Odysseus and Ajax become members of the IRA, one a fighter continuing the violent battle, the other a politician waging war through non-violent means. Somedays is a sad tale of unrequited love, taken from Ariadne and Theseus, in which a nervous man desperately awaits his lover. The final tragedy, The Last Word, inverts the Medea story, so that a man who has been separated from his family takes the only action his despair will allow him.

Comic respite comes from The Roykeaneiad, which takes the epic tale of Agamemnon and Achilles, and presents it from the view of an Irish football fan watching the 2004 World Cup. The stubbornness of the hero proves the downfall of both himself and the team.

The human concerns of the myths ease seamlessly into a post-feminist 21st-century setting. Cleverer is the way in which Teevan has stuck to the Greek structure by presenting the tales in verse and threaded them with reference to the original tales.

Hicks, with a change in accent, posture or the donning of a coat, slips from character to character, never less than fully committed to each new story. In the intimate confines of the Trafalgar Studio 2, one can see, more than ever, the nuances and style that grew Hicks’s reputation.

Missing Persons: Four Tragedies And Roy Keane is playing at the Trafalgar Studio 2 until 25 February.

MA