You don’t tend to see many standing ovations at the Fringe – or I don’t, in any case. But several people in the Traverse audience leapt to their feet at the end of this solo piece. I suspect their enthusiastic applause was directed almost wholly at the show’s performer Paul Reid, his clothes drenched, his white face paint lined with sweat tributaries, after 90 minutes of exertion.
Reid is one of three members of Dublin’s Corn Exchange credited with the creation of Man of Valour - the other two being writer Michael West and director Annie Ryan – and it’s clearly a collaboration in which the text, what there is of it, is merely the starting point.
A tale that begins with a trawl through the daily frustrations of modern urban life – an overcrowded train, a missed lift, a labyrinth of office cubicles, an annoying colleague – segues into Walter Mitty-style fantasies and then into something much more sinister, and supernatural, as Reid’s common man battles a powerful inner demon. Is he a psychopath about to go berserk? Or can he save himself?
What makes proceedings extraordinary is not just Reid’s playing of all parts, but also his provision of imaginary props and 90% of the soundscape (sounds of typing, the Windows log-in, flies, water coolers, squeaky cabinet doors, speeding bullets and much more). He’s an expert mime and, even if it’s occasionally tricky to follow exactly what’s happening, the satisfaction when you do cotton on is immense.
However, at 90 minutes, Man of Valour feels overlong. We get the point, and the impact of Reid’s skills, pretty quickly. There’s no need to keep him sweating quite so profusely beyond that.