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On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco/Can Cause Death (Newcastle)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sitting too close to the stage can often ruin seeing a show, making you feel uncomfortable in case you are dragged unexpectedly in to the action or too close to appreciate the performance. So being in row AA, level with the action was a daunting concept. But within seconds of performance starting, being just feet away from David Bradley (Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films) with no one between us it became a privilege, as he gave a performance that can only be described as a master class.

Bradley’s every movement and look provides more depth to his character Nyukhin, in Anton Chekhov’s On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco. In the monologue we start by listening to Nyukhin lecture us on tobacco, but he soon leaves the subject telling us of his life as a put upon husband and father. While continually glancing in to the wings to see if his wife is watching, his story is both funny and tragic but all the while totally gripping, as you hang on very word.

Once the lecture is finished the character of Nyukhin disappears before our eyes, as Bradley slowly changes in to women’s clothes and carefully applies make up to transforms in to Nyukhin’s wife. This is the woman we have heard so much about, from her now late husband, as she now makes the eulogy at his funeral, all the while emptying a bottle of wine. This monologue is called Can Cause Death, written by Alison Carr, and gives us glimpse at the terrible creature we have heard so much about.

The humour in Can Cause Death is reminiscent of Alan Bennett, and while not being as strong or detailed as the Chekov monologue, the two sit comfortably alongside each other .

With a total running time of only forty five minutes, it is a brief evening. But to witness David Bradley bring these two monologues to life is what live theatre is all about.