A great play made better
Duplicity, Substance and Shadow Theatre, Exeter Bike Shed, Saturday 7th June
By Jenna Richards
Convincingly portraying two different characters with no costume changes and no camera trickery is an ambitious undertaking – but Midge Mullin in Duplicity pulled it off with ease.
The fantastic play from Substance and Shadow Theatre originally showed in February but had been reworked for the Exeter Ignite festival – and it was a real treat to be in the audience for the second time.
The show, which was brilliant fist time round, had been tightened up, one character had been axed – to the benefit of the play in my opinion – and other characters developed.
Duplicity is set in 1977 against the volatile backdrop of the punk rock explosion and follows identical twins Tommy and Finbar Kelly as their sense of reality and self disintegrates into a maelstrom of anarchy, chaos and disorder.
The company used the sparse set and minor props to fantastic effect. What impressed me most about Duplicity was the ability to conjure up a full set, bustling with imagery and action, using one man and some all-consuming dialogue.
Midge Mullin, alone on stage, changed characters by donning glasses and adopting a hunched stance. He told the story of Tommy and Finn with language so vivid it was like watching a film – a mark of a great actor and some intensely complimentary writing.
However, my favourite character was the smarmy Leonard Silver, played by Nathan Simpson. His over exaggerated, gangly movements and wildly over the top, sometimes comedic persona, made him a delight to watch. He was entertaining, emotive and utterly believable.
Leonard Silver’s character had even more presence, pizzazz and perfidiousness in this beefed up version and it worked perfectly. Despite being the bad guy and the purveyor of discontent he provided the comedy in a tale that could otherwise be quite melancholy.
The only fault I could find in the whole production was that I was desperate to know how the story of Tommy’s girlfriend, Ultra Violet, ended, but was left wanting – however that is me being picky!
Overall this was an outstanding play; I was struck by the quality of writing and acting. It is so much harder to play to a small, very close audience with a sparse set and very few props, but Substance and Shadow make it look easy.
Written by Rosie and Midge Mullin, Duplicity explored themes of identity, duality and deceit using monologue, interwoven with action, projection and music and finished off with some remarkable acting and a gripping story.