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The Quiz

Published June 18, 2008

Fact, fiction, acting or real life? Caroline Bishop went to see actor David Bradley’s portrayal of an actor acting, in The Quiz.

Will he finally die on stage like Tommy Cooper and Edmund Kean before him? Or will he simply dry up on stage? The latter is the more likely outcome for this sherry-drinking aged actor prone to forgetting his lines, despite performing Dostoyevsky’s monologue The Grand Inquisitor for two decades.

David Bradley is The Actor in author Richard Crane’s funny, intriguing and slightly surreal play, which is simply staged at Trafalgar Studio 2. The intimate setting is made atmospheric with the help of several candles, which Bradley lights at the beginning of this short play, indicating that our time (or maybe his) will be up when the last candle has burnt out.

Dressed for performance in a hooded cassock and wooden crucifix, and speaking directly to the audience, whose close presence enhances the somewhat unnerving effect, Bradley – or at least the unnamed actor that he portrays – tells us the tale of his life, intertwined around excerpts from the piece that became his raison d’être, The Grand Inquisitor, nicknamed The Quiz.

Here, fiction blurs with fact, acting with real life, as The Actor shows us that anything is true, if only you, the audience, believe it. And so, this could be Bradley himself, weary from a life of acting, drunkenly stumbling about the stage and berating his absent prompter when he forgets his lines. Or this is total fiction, and the whiskey bottle in his pocket is actually filled with ice-tea, and Bradley’s engagement with the audience is nothing more than a display of fine acting.

With his subtle mannerisms and well-timed delivery of Crane’s darkly comic script – not to mention his Tommy Cooper impression – Bradley conjures many laughs from the audience, as well as giving a touching portrayal of an actor who, rather than ending his life in a Home For Actors Who Have Forgotten Their Lines, wishes for a heroic stage death amid the surrounds that have made his life what it is.

CB

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