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Mayday Mayday (Plymouth)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tristan Sturrock, Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre stalwart, is superb at story-telling and even when the subject matter is autobiographical and medical, that talent is not diminished.

Sturrock’s May Day 2004 experience was life-changing. The actor, who lists outings at the National Theatre, for the RSC and the Royal Exchange among others and has been seen on the silver screen in Saving Grace, nipped out to buy his pregnant partner some chips, got a tad inebriated en route as Padstow revelled in its annual Obby Oss pageantry and fell off a wall breaking his neck. Told he would never walk again, there followed life-defining decisions and a long slow journey to the man we see performing.

Inspired by Mary Shelley, the tale’s first outing was as Frankenspine – my big break performed at Bristol’s Old Vic and has been refined for the Theatre Damfino tour directed by Sturrock’s partner Katy Carmichael.

A solo show is always a big ask, and to be sharing one’s own drama can become tedious, smug or self-pitying but Sturrock generally manages to steer clear.

Playing all the characters and with the clever use of simple props, Sturrock is occasionally self-consciously poignant and sometimes concentratedly flippant but for the most part this is compelling and entertaining, feting the brilliance of the surgeon and the NHS staff in Plymouth who walked the precarious path with him.

There are laughs aplenty – particularly the lovely vignette of the ambulance man and the operatic operation. A bit of fun, a bit of education and a bit of emotion, all in a fast-paced hour.


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