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I'd Rather Goya Robbed Me of My Sleep than Some Other Arsehole (Gate Theatre)

Rodrigo Garcia's play features a stellar performance from Steffan Rhodri but the script needs work

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Steffan Rhodri

The rather cumbersome title is a good reflection of an equally cumbersome but rather compelling piece. A one-man show (with piglets), it's the story of a man who, finding himself overwhelmed by the pace of the world and financial instability, decides to withdraw his life savings - 5000 euros to be exact – and take his six and 11 year old sons to Barcelona, break into the Prado, and spend a night looking at the Black Paintings of Francisco Goya. His children would rather go to Disneyland.

Steffan Rhodri's performance is impressive. He captures the mania of his character but more importantly the pathos. Even as he degrades women and talks about whether or not to buy coke and strippers for his sons, you feel his isolation and desperation. Perhaps one of the best elements of his performance is his pacing. In a play about a mad dash to make meaning and prove that "we don't aspire to a normal life" he speeds through the script without it ever feeling rushed.

And it is precisely this issue of pacing where the script itself falls down. As we've been rollicking along – rushing towards Barcelona and then along its streets – Rodrigo Garcia's script stops us dead as our narrator has a crisis of faith; is all we're doing just "digging" – sinking lower. And Rhodri has a big job getting us, at three quarters of the way through, to commit once more to his madcap adventure. His story is so intense, so pressurised and depends so much on us feeling his mania, that to allow us to leave it is to break the spell he's worked so hard to create.

The magic of his performance owes an enormous debt to the beautifully smart set - a white tiled box with overhead strip lighting giving the sense of a sanatorium. The back wall has a cube attached, which represents our protagonist's kitchen, and in which we find him when the play begins. It is small and grotty - as you imagine his life is – and rotates to give a sense of his own unhingedness. Barcelona is built out of children's building blocks, the taxi is a toy car and even a Mickey Mouse balloon makes an appearance. It's all very surreal, delightfully so.

In the end, however, even a brilliant performance and a beautifully executed production can't support a script that doesn't quite sustain itself.