A chance to see Tristan Sturrock up close, and telling his own tale, is a bit like being given the chance to be in the same room as Richard Gere just before he did Officer and a Gentleman. Or maybe George Clooney just after the first series of ER.
Sturrock is a leading man, who had he been in Hollywood, would have his picture on billboards within months. His presence is subtle yet vibrant and when he is presenting the one man show he wrote, he is so many characters that it’s hard to remember it is just him out there. But it is just him and his story.
On Mayday in Padstow, Cornwall, among the celebrations and the music, Sturrock falls off a wall and breaks his neck. What follows is a production that explores what happens to the man that landed on his head between a wall and a garage.
He tells us all about it with his acting. A twist of a hand that brings our character to a state of drunkenness, a glance that reminds us that the way home is up the ziggy zaggy stairs, a curtain that becomes the entry to the living room and the bedroom, a spotlight that becomes a bathtub.
The props are minimal but it seems that the creativity of our only character is infinite and all-embracing in order for us to understand exactly what happened.
Mayday Mayday has been developed through Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment programme where it was known as Frankenspine. The result is an emotional journey that is fascinating and gripping in equal measures. Sturrock falls down on stage to show us what happened but moments later he is up again, a feat, that in real life, his wife and director, Katy Carmichael, thought would never happen.
Characters he encounters come to life for moments at a time and then pass away. We meet the surgeon and the driver of the ambulance. We are there when he is learning to walk again. Most importantly we meet the narrator who looks back on it all and we learn what he learns, that sometimes just being heard is important and that there is always something that will make us laugh. This isn’t a somber production but it is heartfelt and will make you think. May inspire you a little, as well.
Mayday Mayday runs until February 4 at the Bristol Old Vic