Mike Lownes (Jonathan Higgs) is a highly successful writer/performer under the pseudonym ‘Caleb Johnston’. Well, this is partly true – Mike takes the credit for scripts actually written by his reclusive partner, Niall Frederick (Peter Easterbrook). Mike’s lifestyle is threatened when Niall gains the confidence to perform his own work in public.
Co-writers and directors Peter Easterbrook and Jonathan Higgs tell their ambitious story with style. The early part of the play is littered with convincing red herrings. There is an edge of authenticity to the play. Mike does not resort to violence to frustrate Niall’s ambitions. He uses the comedian’s nasty trick of publicly performing a rival’s material before the originator has the chance to do so. As directors the pair show considerable technical skill. Regular flashbacks and changes of perspective are achieved with a clarity that engages, rather than baffles, the audience.
There are flaws in the play. The character of Niall feels under-developed – it is not clear why writing is not sufficient to satisfy his creative needs and he needs the recognition from performing. Unlike their central character the writers have no trouble coming up with ideas but seem unable to focus on just one. They struggle to decide if Mike is haunted by his actions or becoming psychologically unhinged and terrified of his personality being absorbed into his own creation. As a result the play lacks the necessary atmosphere of horror or paranoia that would draw-in in the audience.
DEL is the first production from Malengin Theatre. All of the five cast members (the co-creators plus Mick Cooper, Elinor Dixon and Gareth Williams) impress taking on a wide range of roles with skill. The stress and guilt endured by the central character is apparent in Higgs’s increasingly tortured performance.
It is refreshing to see a play where the producers have too many ideas rather than too few and the enthusiasm of the cast is matched by their talent.