the ungrateful biped

11 Feb

The Ungrateful Biped

at the White Bear Theatre

‘Notes from the Underground’ is a disturbing piece written by Feodor Dostoyevski in 1864. It concerns a misanthrope – someone who hates mankind, who cannot understand the meaning of life – rather like Hamlet – or You and Me.

It has been adapted by Philip Goodhew who stars in the unnamed role of the man living in a sordid basement. Jealous and angry with people who are better off than him.

Goodhew has used a modern day version of the man in the original story. He is making a blog video about himself, to himself and for himself. He has a computer and a tv screen so he can watch himself and at the same time the audience can see him.

He is not well, he has fits of coughing, when he doesn’t cough, he sings under his breath. He cannot understand how a man as clever as he is – more intelligent than anyone else, is in his humble state in life and he is racked with hatred. He hates himself because he seems unable to make an impression and he invited himself to a party just so he can make fun of his friend, who is about to become famous as a film star. He insults him cruelly and rather than make an impression, he is just ignored by the assembled company.

We begin wanting to feel sympathy for him, but just as in his life, his horrible behaviour turns the audience against him and we begin to hate him as much as he hates himself..

He knows he is a sick man, he thinks he may have cirrhosis of the liver but rejects all treatment

He has lost interest in anything but himself. Am I ridiculous? He asks And yet he wants to be noticed to make an impression in life, but he cannot seem to help himself.

His final act is one of cruel rejection to the only person who is kind to him, who cares.

Rupert Graves has directed this extraordinary piece of work. The setting is just a whole lots of white sheeting and the lighting is one of the most impressive things in this production. It changes constantly from orange to blue – to no colour, reflecting his mood and doing much of the work for the actor.

An interesting evening, but not one would want to see too often.

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