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BWW Review: CATCHING COMETS, Pleasance Theatre


A deeply intimate story of universal proportions.

BWW Review: CATCHING COMETS, Pleasance Theatre

BWW Review: CATCHING COMETS, Pleasance Theatre "I'm a part-time time-traveler!" Toby is an artist who moonlights (quite literally) in an observatory. While his job is generally a tedious keeping track of stars and making sure they haven't moved, everything changes when he spots a comet that seems to be coming towards Earth. An action-film fanboy with a profound lack of confidence, when nobody pays attention to his warning he transforms into a blockbuster hero. Meanwhile, in his personal sphere, a chance encounter at a party makes him fall in love with a girl who made "time melt".

Piers Black's deeply intimate story of universal proportions is brought to life by performer Alastair Michael, directed by the writer himself. Catching Comets is a friend telling you the tale of how he fell head over heels. Black's writing works on two lines that intersect with idiosyncratic sarcasm. Genuinely funny, the retelling ends up being a heartbreaking journey of introspection and self-discovery.

Toby's adoring attitude towards the likes of Die Hard's John McClane, Rambo, and their OTT exploits transfers onto the adorable depiction of his colossal crush for this girl. The sharp dissonance in delivery between his actions as the hero on an Earth-saving mission (this includes helicopter rides with his best pal, gunfire scenes, sunglasses, cigarettes, and the lot) and his honest and palpable excitement for his real-life romantic adventure creates an unmistakable parallel between who he'd love to be and who he actually is.

Lights and music become essential elements in Black's play, with Matt Leventhall and Mark Harris' (lighting and sound designers respectively) creating an epic atmosphere where Michael gets to shine as an actor and a storyteller. He juggles tone and delivery seamlessly, keeping the two distinct story-lines tied together in allegory. While the aim is ultimately one of metaphysical substance, the piece remains conversational, relatable, and exceptionally down-to-earth.

It gives an insight into an unconventional hero, a man who doesn't have body-strength or incredibly good looks on his side. Black's character is certainly an interesting one: he's not an underdog per se, but he's also not not one. He leaves the story open-ended, much as life itself is for the living. Toby is still searching inwardly for answers as we leave his heroic alter ego to grapple with potential devastation, proving that personal growth is never-ending.

Catching Comets runs at Pleasance Theatre until 19 September.

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