Sometimes you need a punch to the gut

Sometimes you need a punch to the gut

13 April 2017

The raw emotion of Sad Little Man makes it a stand-out show for Wilkie Dickinson-Sparkes

“This is a very private moment you are privy to.”

Sad Little Man was for me the most powerful piece in the festival so far, and is unlikely to be knocked off that podium in the coming days. I’ve never been much of an intellectual theatre-viewer; as Lee (Oliver Strong) says, “she’s smarter than me”. That’s how I feel reading some of the reviews in this magazine. I don't see the references, the allusions and the “reminiscent of”s until I have them pointed out to me, and even then I don't always get them. I like theatre, I liked The Iconoclasts, I liked Hidden and Celebration because I could enjoy them for what they were. But Sad Little Man was different somehow. It nearly made me cry.

Fuck it. It did make me cry. For the first time in at least five years, I cried out of sadness. Something in the piece hit me very hard in a place I haven't been hit in a long time. The raw emotion in Strong’s performance, as he picked Emily (Danielle Harris) out of the bath, really touched me. Perhaps stand-up tragedy is my new favourite genre. Already a fan of performance poetry, the half-rap-half-screamo segment, where I was blinded with stage lights and bombarded with long breathless sentences of pure feeling, was another highlight.

I think it is very important that we don't lose sight of these pure, raw, stories in theatre. Obviously, plays that carry a deeper political or social message, like No Human is Illegal or Say it Loud, are important channels through which to drive social justice. Plays like Sad Little Man that tell strong personal stories are still important and shouldn’t be dropped in favour of vehicles for political messages, important though they are.

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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca