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The Handyman (Tour - Oxford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The Handyman is not so much a pacey whodunnit but a ploddy did-he-do-it. Immediately we are introduced to the apparent normal life of a gentrified middle class English couple (Adrian Lukis and Caroline Langrishe) and their septuagenarian Ukrainian handyman (Timothy West), soon the police totter in and proceed to question all three regarding war crimes back in 1941.

Whilst being only sixteen years old the play feels terribly dated, plodding along at the same pace as a disinteresting History lesson did. Unfortunately this comparison is terribly appropriate, the entire production felt like a bizarre mix between Theatre in Education and a glorified one man play.

At times it veered into being potentially very crass – one exchanged concerned whether a Jewish solicitor is a good person to take on a case surrounding the Holocaust. As it turns out, the solicitor eventually roped in wasn’t Jewish, but her husband is. That’s the “next best thing” apparently.

For what it’s worth, Timothy West displays a fine Ukrainian tone, complete with comprehensive vocal ticks native of the region. Everyone else in the production simply put on generic middle-class English folk accents. In fact, that could be expanded – West produced a carefully nuanced performance which stood out greatly compared to the murkiness of others.

A simple but effective set depicts an English country garden was followed by a lengthy transition into Scotland Yard’s interview quarters. Here, there are two lengthy projected interview sequences. The difficulty here was watching one half of a projected conversation about a plot that really isn’t going anywhere fast is not particularly interesting to anybody in a theatre, especially when Vanessa Redgrave (in the second of these interviews) simply sat and spoke in a style akin to reading an autocue, slowly.

The production limped home at 2 hours 20 minutes, however I suspect it would have been more gripping had they cut 20 minutes of tired dialogue, pulled out the interval and produced one act of quality tension.

- Daniel Whitley


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