Theatre

A Stretch of the Imagination @ Cock Tavern, London



cast & director
Mark LittleOh les beaux jours!

In Jack Hibberd’s 1972 monologue a man is woken by a bell, greets the glorious day, suffers in the sweltering heat, does his ablutions, prattles, sings, whiles away the time until death.

Umbrella. Revolver. Literary allusions. Emmets. Hibberd has transported Beckett’s Happy Days lock, stock and music box into the Australian outback. I would say that all that’s missing is a Willie but there’s plenty of reference to that too.

The man, Monk O’Neill, may not be quite as incapacitated as Beckett’s Winnie but he certainly seems trapped within the environs of his wood and tin hut.

Directing himself, Mark Little, best-known from Ramsey Street, The Big Breakfast and his career as a stand-up, gives an energetic performance. He delivers the nearly two hour monologue with panache, raising plenty of laughs along the way, if not always observing the terse poetry of Hibberd’s text.

The play is now considered a classic in Australia and is on the school curriculum. The playwright has written some 40 plays since 1967 on a wide variety of subjects and his most popular piece (Dimboola, described as “a wedding reception audience-participation play”), is frequently performed in his homeland.

At the end of A Stretch of the Imagination, in a nod to another Beckett play, a beautiful moon rises over a tramp-like figure. If the play lacks originality, Hibberd’s muscular language and imagery, laced with Australian bawdiness, leads the viewer to want to find out more about his work.

The Cock Tavern does well, with this month-long run, to draw our attention to him.

A Stretch of the Imagination runs at the Cock Tavern, Kilburn until 17 July



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