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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Shining Armour

Shining Armour isn’t a bad play. Bad plays are painful to watch. Armour isn’t that. It’s just not a good play.

It has saturated itself with a thousand little errors. Little flaws that would otherwise be forgiven in light of some wider triumphs. The most obvious offender (or is that victim?) is the script. Amongst the chinks in its armour (sic) are its over-reliance on pointless post-Fight Club pontificating on men in the modern world, which always seems to boil down to how we must rebel by rejecting only the most superfluous and superficial aspects of the modern age and resolve most issues in combat.

It also sorely lacks a middle act. The middle 20 minutes don’t seem to have anything to do other than fling about an unneeded pregnancy/abortion storyline and introduce a superfluous fourth character to fill time. Which brings us to its greatest weakness, the characters. All the actors, especially Gene Alexander as the lead character Martin, do valiant jobs. They do valiant jobs in spite of how they are written. It is with unintended irony that someone declaims ‘Everyone has an ulterior motive!’ Because no one in this play does. Everyone wears their feelings on their faces.

Martin is a hapless advertising exec drifting through life on a cloud that may be angst, apathy or just modern living…so pretty much every male antagonist written in the past ten years. His love interest is the whore-with-the-heart-of-gold Stacey, expressed well by Hollie Weir, who serves, in a painful display of regressive post-feminism, to be little more than someone in need of saving. Her ex, Kevin, an abusive user of a ‘poet’, seems pathologically driven to create conflict. He’s played by Oliver Cox, who utilises his now trademarked talent for long bipolar monologues to great worth. Just not great enough to save his half-written character. We also meet the aforementioned time filler, Graham, Martin’s boss, played with obvious and tangible relish by Barry Lakeman. It’s just a pity that his character really doesn’t do anything.

I fear this is coming off as one big bash on Philip Braithwaite, and it shouldn’t be. Because he is a good writer. The Ghost of Woody Allen more than proved that a few years back. This just isn’t his masterpiece. Well, actually, it’s far from his masterpiece, but no one can be a genius all of the time. It’s another step forward towards his later work. And, in a lot of ways, that is the kindest thing that can be said about it. It is a transitional, lesser work for all involved. They have great places to go and I’m gonna be right there to see them. It’s just a pity the journey, at least in this case, isn’t as interesting as the destination.

But it’s not terrible, just harmless.

Shining Armour
Written by Philip Braithwaite
Directed by Gene Alexander
At Bats
August 26 – 30

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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