Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 5 March 2011


The Queen's Head Denman St ⋄ 1st March - 3rd April, 2011

Man walks into a pub.

Daniel B. Yates

I think you've had enough son. Photo: Northampton Chronicle

A man strides into the pub, young, cropped hair and a fitted suit. With a fixed glare as if trying to win a blinking contest somewhere in the middle-distance, he sits down in front a pint, and after a moment, and with an ejaculatory sigh, proceeds to open up.

Dave works at the Department of Strategic and Tactical Devlopment (STD) an inscrutable Whitehall bureaucracy-void. Frustrated at the ossification of government, where oddness and geekery had become normalised, he longs for some Darwinian predator to “eat them all”. He hates the endless “lower middle-class banquet” of Cava and jammy dodgers, and massive and massively useless middle-aged women that get massively overpromoted. And so we get a tale of his breakdown, his confrontation in a club toilet with his boss, his binging through the streets of London, throwing an open can of lager at a hipster girl’s head, sleeping on Clapham common, a final confrontation with his guileless nephew.

DC Moore’s script fairly reeks of adolescent weltschmerz, with all the uncomfortable reductions that entails in an adult. And in such an intimate setting this dose of unreality proves fatal. A man who despises data, and here Moore locates a truth about the dehumanised empiricism of goverance, Dave rails at his colleagues for not getting how “people work”. But these flashes of human soul are wholly undermined by the resolute strangeness of the man, who does not seem to understand office life, children, computer games – awkwardly cast aside from all aspects of modern life. A drama of alienation requires an alienated subject, an inkling of a gap between the human and their humanity, Dave’s peevish, undernourished sociopathy is one-note and rootless. Not so much Falling Down as awkwardly suspended.

This unreality may not have been a problem if the dissolution of the character was wrought in more desperate, or surreal ways. I was constantly returned to Chris Morris’s monologues from Blue Jam, breaking into a zoo and giving a cigarette to a bear before being shot in the arse by tranquilisers, cradling an undescribed gun, judged by a court of snails. The humour here is much more conventional, one-liners and repetition, the descent lacking the deep surreal humour and utter desperation of Morris, or the tender clarity it struggled for in the final passages. Trystan Gravelle delivers the jokes crisply, but his neatly emphatic manner adds to the strangeness, and never quite relaxes enough to rescue the bonhomie the script is so ungenerous with. Glimpses of an entirely different performance were afforded when riding the laughs of a (too sober) audience whose intermittent connection to his story made momentum an uphill struggle, and constantly returned him a mode of imploring matter-of-factness, tinged with brittle aggression. You can see why the jocular atmosphere of Edinburgh served this play well, here, in this quiet pub, it was like being forced to listen to the guy best edged-away from, who the barstaff tolerate with nervous professionalism. Not the guy who snaps the pool cue just to get an easier angle; someone more boring than that. The urge to say “yeah, alright mate”, was at times, overpowering.

Despite the script’s over-valuation of them, some of the jokes are decent. Dave floats the idea that London’s private schools, which you never see, are actually located directly beneath the sink-comprehensives that you always do; luxurious basements full of rich kids being told “you’re the past, the future, the fucking everything”, although a lack of imaginative flourish curtails many of the good ideas. Far too often clipped notes are thrown in, that lead us nowhere and tell us little, such as when Dave talks about never having slept with a black woman before. That he’d like to, as they have dark skin, is as deep as we go on race and sex. If Gravelle could allow himself to be more stupid, inhabiting the glazed walls of heterosexual sexuality, the regressive adolescent that sees “80s music” as the end of the world, then we might have something more believable, but his air of self-awareness works against him throughout. Polly Findlay makes a rare mistep in the director’s seat, but this is what it is – a brief cabaret turn, just about worth the £8.50 they rush you, which enlivens a night in the pub, as long as you’re there primarily for the drinking.

Man walks into a pub. It’s a decently-constructed joke, but not much more.


Daniel B. Yates

Educated by the state, at LSE and Goldsmiths, Daniel co-founded Exeunt in late 2010. The Guardian has characterised his work as “breaking with critical tradition” while his writing on live culture &c has appeared in TimeOut London, i-D Magazine, Vice Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives and works in London E8, and is pleasant.

Honest Show Info

Directed by Polly Findlay

Written by DC Moore

Cast includes Trystan Gravelle


Running Time 40 mins (without interval)



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