Review – Push and Shove, Crisis Point Theatre Company, University of Northampton Flash Festival, Hazelrigg House, Northampton, 24th May 2017

Push and ShoveI’ve tried to get into the world of vlogging. Not as a vlogger, I hasten to add – no one would want to watch and listen to me spout forth drivel – but as a viewer; I’ve subscribed to a few people over the years, watched a few, but then they always seem to fade away into nothing much-ness. So this one man show, Push and Shove, by Crisis Point Theatre offers up a very interesting and believable scenario, where our hero vlogger, Jared Howell, is setting up his system to perform and record his latest livestream video, to be viewed by who knows how many thousands of people around the world. This broadcast, however, is going to contain something special, something different; a surprise for his fans, and an insight into his state of mind.

To be honest, I guessed from very early on what the nature of the surprise would be; it wasn’t difficult, given his sad reminiscences of the people behind the faces in his photo gallery that he has assembled around him, and the very ominous cardboard box that he has placed on the table in front of him. However, his descent towards suicide oddly drives the action forward; very disturbingly, but with a kind of hypnotic inevitability – Olly Manningalthough the only member of the audience not to see it coming let out of a scream of terror when the offstage gunshot was heard; people will always react unexpectedly to the sound of a gun!

This was a very well put together, thoughtful piece; not without humour, as Olly Manning, performing the role of Jared, absolutely nailed the character’s hollow mask of brightness and optimism, still putting on a brave and jolly show for his subscribers, whilst letting us see his tragedy when his adoring public were not looking. It’s a very appropriate piece for our time, not only with the whole vlogging phenomenon, but the growing awareness of mental health and the rate of male suicide. This show starkly revealed the uselessness – indeed cruelty – of telling someone to man up. As part of this “final show” Jared performs a poignant song – accompanied by Luke Mortimore on the guitar – which Mr Manning sings with great purity and heart.

YoutubeMy only criticism relates to the staging of the show; as Jared is performing to the camera for so much of the time, he isn’t actually performing to us, his live theatre audience watching this show. As a result, you get a slight feeling of being an outsider at the event, almost of being ignored, rather than feeling fully involved in his performing directly to you. Not sure how you could get around that, but it did have a slight distancing effect to our relationship with the character and his crisis. Nevertheless, it was a strong and authoritative performance that told its story clearly and with emotion, and, despite the subject matter, was strangely enjoyable. Congratulations!