BWW Reviews: Top Notch Performance Holds PAPERBOY Together at the Galloway
When I was at drama school, one of our lecturers, Mark Fleishman, said that plays break down into acts, acts into scenes, scenes into beats and beats into moments, and that it was the moments that people remembered after they had watched a piece of theatre. There are two moments that define PAPERBOY, the one man show written and performed by Grant Jacobs that is currently running at the Galloway Theatre in Cape Town. The first is when Jacobs plays the role of the titular paperboy's father. Jacobs transforms masterfully into this battered and bruised, wheelchair-bound man. The character he creates is subtle and textured and the imagery used to bring him to life is spellbinding. The second comes as the audience is introduced to the people on Bobby Jones's paper route, which starts off with a little anti-Semitic joke about the Jewish houses at the start of the street that only buy one newspaper between them. The joke doesn't land; it simply isn't funny. Somewhere between the sophistication of the former moment and the gaucherie of the second lies the essence of the play as a whole.
PAPERBOY is a coming of age story in which we meet Bobby, who delivers newspapers from his bicycle as he rides down a street called Alice Road. Besides his dream of dating Tracy Summers, the neighbourhood beauty, Bobby at first seems not to have too many aspirations beyond his current existence - although he does nurture a secret desire to become an actor. When he knocks over an urn after delivering one of his papers through an open window, things kick into action and Bobby is thrown into life-changing circumstances. Along the way, the audience meets a range of characters from Alice Road who all play a part in bringing Bobby to a new phase in his life.
Jacobs performs all of the characters in the play, each of which comes to life quite convincingly. Besides the naïvely idealistic Bobby and his father, others include the gossipy Aunty Stella and the pair of gangsters who lurk on the corner, which Jacobs brings to life simultaneously. Jacobs is a captivating performer and his performance in PAPERBOY is so endearing that even when the material flirts a little too successfully with clichés and superficiality, he gets away with it.
Technically speaking, the show is impressively put together. The design of the play places more emphasis on set, props and costume than most solo theatre, which usually relies primarily on physical theatre and verbal dynamics to construct character and narrative. The central image of the white picket fence upon a strip of green Astroturf provides the play with a core visual identity that cleverly links the various characters in the community. The execution of the sound and lighting is also spot on and the direction, by Liam Magner, drives the play forward at a jolly clip.
My one reservation about PAPERBOY is that the piece feels a little "doughnuts for dinner", as Hunter from [TITLE OF SHOW] might put it. The anti-Semitic joke aside, I enjoyed PAPERBOY well enough while it was being performed, but when it ended I felt like I needed something meatier. There were some great moments, but there was not enough for me to take away, particularly given that the show is aiming resonance in its exploration of self-fulfilment, ambition and personal truth. Perhaps I am just being too cynical. But perhaps Jacobs has outgrown his 2011 Ovation Award winning play and needs to challenge himself with something new.
PAPERBOY will be performed until 17 May at 8pm in the Galloway Theatre at the Waterfront Theatre School in Port Road, Cape Town. Tickets cost R100 and bookings can be made at the Waterfront Theatre School website.