Stop Making Sense
You might be tempted, courtesy of its title, to suspect a strong Carson McCullers influence on Hannah Mamalis’ one woman show, “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter,” returning as part of the First Fortnight Festival to Smock Alley following its hugely successful run in last years Dublin Fringe Festival. However, you might be better served reading up on Kafka, Ionesco, or even one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. For “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” is a delightfully dark, absurdist comedy, full of existential dread, exploring our sense of feeling alone in a strange and unusual world. A world where the distinctions between isolation and solitude, real and imagined, dreams and reality are thinner than egg shells. Delightfully daft, drearily dreamlike, and deftly done in places, “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” is a daring, darling, and darkly delicious production about one pretty unique girl and her way of seeing the world.
In “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter,” shopkeeper Sophie narrates her impressions and projections, dreams and memories, feelings and phobias directly to the audience, as if in a prolonged counseling session. Always, Sophie’s mind wanders incessantly, talking about whatever takes her fancy. Which is usually informed by the many articles she’s read, the vivid dreams she’s had, or the vividly recounted childhood memories in which her mother features heavily. Around which the patchwork of a thinly woven story evolves about a young boy who disappears under unusual circumstances, allowing Sophie to discover more about herself, the world around her, and those who inhabit, or pass through it.
In many respects “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” really shouldn’t work as well as it does. With its unrelenting tone, its narrow theatrical focus, its often overwrought language with many words feeling forcibly wedged in, and with alliteration running riot, its heavily text based stylings can often feel taut and tense, and not always in a good way. Structurally, it can feel like a clever short story stretched to a novel, with its thin narrative thread barely able to sustain the weight of its clever quirkiness. And yet, when it doesn’t loose the audience down its convoluted rabbit holes, it works incredibly well. Due in no small measure to a cleverly understated performance by Mamalis.
Throughout, Mamalis stands, and performs, with the conviction and minimalism of an Aikido master, while looking the part too. Centered on her mat in the centre of the floor, exercising an economy of movement executed with a Tai Chi like simplicity and directness, Mamalis is the mistress of carefully articulated understatement. Director Jeda de Brí, whose more recent productions have been characterized by relentless pace and energy, adds yet another string to her already impressive bow. With Mamalis’ performance imbued with an often meditative stillness at times, de Brí executes “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” with a ‘Zen in the art of theatre making’ approach, delivering a slow, steady, and unwavering performance, one with a simple yet palpable strength. Indeed both Mamalis and de Brí ensure that though Mamalis essentially stands, with minimal movement, recounting an often uninteresting story in what might be considered an uninteresting theatrical way, it is often incredibly engaging, with a solid backbone channeling some serious power in places.
If her fictionally conditioned Sophie is a little cookie at times, in “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” Hannah Mamalis delivers a thought provoking, absurdist comedy that shows immense promise. No, it doesn’t always work. Yes, it sometimes gets lost along the way. But “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” strives to say, and craft, something distinctly fresh and original. It doesn’t always make sense, yet, paradoxically, it often makes far more sense when it stops making sense. When black holes swallow young children, smiley faced eggs lead to Hansel and Gretel styled pathways, socks disappear in the night and the plight of misshapen nipples tune us into the countless concerns humanity has faced since before humanity even existed. Hannah Mamalis might well be something of a new kid on the block, but be advised: remember the name. On the evidence of “The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” there’s a very good chance you’ll be hearing of her a lot more.
“The Egg Is A Lonely Hunter” by Hannah Mamalis, runs at Smock Alley Theatre as part of the First Fortnight Festival until January 13th
For more information visit First Fortnight or Smock Alley Theatre.