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Fringe Review: The Orderly

Fringe Review: The Orderly

Review by Lyndon Hood

The Orderly

The Orderly
The Rebel Alliance

Bats Theatre
March 2 -10, 8pm (no show Mon and Tue)
60 minutes
$18 / $12 / $10

Peter is a general orderly. He shifts stuff around the hospital – bed, equiptment, corpses. He is very much on the recieving end of the pecking order but at least he is not, despite the ongoing threat, a radiotherapy orderly.

Peter is also a historical re-enactor. On the coming weekend, he will be participating the 991 Battle of Maldon. The Saxon army to which he belongs will relive Byrhtnoth's heroic and much-sung defeat at the hands of the Vikings.

We see Peter during a day at work, and the play revolves between this all too real world and that of ancient epic. The coming battle is his obsession, not just as an escapist and sociable hobby that nobody else understands, but as a way of transforming the everyday defeats and major tragedies of his life through the heroic narrative of defeat and death. Something of an art. It's also rather odd, and the peculiarities of re-enactment provide a good few laughs

The play is a single-hander, and actor (and writer) Micheal Downey peforms some five 'real world' characters and the narrator and heroes of the ancient epic. Other people come in and out of what is mostly a convivial monolgue from Peter in a hospital room – Downey handles the character changes in these one-man dialogues well, often with a little step between, sometimes with impressive smoothness.

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The minor modern chacters are all distinctly performed, finely observed and (helpfully) typical of what we might expect from some in their job; it's the historical ones, with their booming, theatrically noble voices, the Peter identifies with. He life is reflected in the design of the play – the hospital set is physically framed by the symbols of ancient warriors.

Peter's body is not more a match for this image than his situation. He is stooped (although Downey's characterisation seems to lack the corresponding frailty) and his voice is hoarse and breathy after "complications" from throat surgery (Peter blames the doctor) at that same hospital, which has restricted his role the re-enacting. That voice had a meaning and function of its own and I assume it reflects the real man who inspired the production. I can't help thinking it also retricted the expressiveness of the actor, although the speed with which we got used it – as a kind of personal idiosyncrasy – sits nicely with the themes too, and the shock of hearing a clear voice from Downey's mouth further demarks Peter from the rest of the world.

The Orderly is a touching slice of an interesting life, mixing comedy and sorrow, as a man, in his small way, transforms crushed hopes into nobility through the lens of ancient epic tragedy.


The Orderly press release
The Rebel Alliance website
Fringe Festival website
Scoop Full Coverage: Fringe 07

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