Review: Kubrick3 by PIT

There are too few comedies on the small-scale scene these days, mainly because it is one of the most difficult genres to get right, but PIT are masters of it and Kubrick3 (tongue-twistingly pronounced ‘Kubrick cubed’) is the latest gem in their canon.

As PIT shows so often are, Kubrick3 is inspired by a true story – that of Alan Conway, described in the publicity as a “failed businessman and unsuccessful homosexual [who] decides his life might improve if he just tells people he’s award-winning film director Stanley Kubrick.” And from that premise comes a fast-paced, roller-coaster ride of hilarious proportions.

As you enter the theatre, a billboard centre stage reminds you that everything in the show is based on true events, and well it might, as the story is so incredible that you might otherwise be forgiven for thinking that the show is the product of writer David Byrne‘s warped imagination. And at the climax of an hour of lunacy, onto the same screen are projected excerpts from a filmed interview with Conway in which he details, almost proudly, the events you have just witnessed on stage, grounding the piece in reality and thus transcending the flimsiness of many comedies.

The show is performed by a cast of five, four of whom simultaneously play Alan Conway, arguing with themselves, concocting excuses and distorting events to fit their self-image. The fifth cast member, Andy McLeod, plays Conway’s imaginary son, a catalyst who has entered his flat just after Alan’s death to try to make sense of his father’s life, encountering the ghost(s) of Conway and challenging him in an attempt to get to the truth. And get to the truth he does, albeit via a convoluted journey through Conway’s own exaggerations and a multitude of misrepresentations by the various facets of his personality through which his son, and we the audience by association, sift in order to sort the fact from the fabrication.

Andy McLeod has the least flashy part, his character of necessity providing an antidote to the mayhem of the four Conways, but he performs it sensitively and genuinely, avoiding the obviousness of playing it with anger throughout and reflecting the audience’s shifting views of his father, which range from outrage, through disbelief, to empathy. Ed Cobbold, as the principle (and, appropriately, only male) Conway is a little too furtive to reflect the man’s charisma, but leads his other selves decisively, maintaining the frenetic pace and never allowing it to hit a hiatus.

Leah Milner, co-founder of PIT, has already established herself as a comic genius throughout the company’s back catalogue, and shines again in this piece as the most deluded of Conway’s personalities, shifting character suddenly and completely and delivering one-liners with finesse. Newcomer to PIT, Sophie Wallis, is equally impressive in her comic timing, playing the seedier side of Conway’s character with magnificent skill and assurance and working in perfect harmony with the rest of the ensemble, as well as delivering, at one point, an unexpected (and superbly accurate) Nigerian accent. Hannah Duncan, as the fourth Conway, provides the much-needed glimpse of charm coupled with immaturity that saves the character from being completely contemptible.

Writer / Director, David Byrne’s style is reminiscent of Wilde and Orton in the richness of its humour and the many layers on which the comedy works. The one-liners, absurd observations and running jokes come too fast for the audience to laugh at every one and yet there is a core of truth and humanity to the play which lifts it above humour for humour’s sake. The four Conways function perfectly as one unit, finishing each others’ thoughts and playing-along with each other in a way which gives you a genuine glimpse into a splintered and damaged soul, while simultaneously making you fall off your seat with laughter.

Perfectly paced and almost filmic in its staging, Kubrick3 is a triumph, and evidence of PIT’s continuing development into one of the most accomplished companies producing alternative comedy to be found today.

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