Fresh, funny, charming and real – that’s The Man, award-winning James Graham’s innovative piece brought to stage courtesy of Whippet Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
A clever monologue, different every night due to the random selection of trigger receipts, recounts the ups and downs of the 2009/10 tax year of self-employed Ben (a superb and endearing James Graham himself on the night reviewed but any one of four possible actors on this tour).
Ben is filling in his tax return and having problems. With the help of the tax office helpline’s Lisa (any one of three possibles and seated in the audience), he sorts through the receipts marking the mundane and the emotional moments of the past year.
The story unfolds as he collects receipts in random order from the audience (given out on the way in) telling the story behind the purchase, and so the play must be different every night with interwoven stories starting and ending at different places each time: people leaving before being introduced and sad or happy endings occurring before we hear the start. But it works. Wonderfully.
With nothing more than a couple of shoeboxes and an ipod to help, Graham’s timing is excellent, his portrayal of the gauche boy-next-door Ben convincing, and the uninterrupted 85 minutes totally absorbing.