Review: Maisie, The Bread & Roses Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Written and produced by Roger Goldsmith, Maisie is an emotionally penetrating, hard-hitting, must-see exegesis on grief, mental health and humanity from the male perspective.

Taking a charming look at the landscape of fatherhood regarding custody, divorce and parental separation, before buckling into a cataclysmic emotional rollercoaster, touching on suicide and psychological stability, Maisie is an incredibly powerful, full-circle, one-man show that is both affectingly and outstandingly delivered. Dan, having split up from his wife Mandy is constantly made to feel sub-standard, with Mandy showing off her new boyfriends in front of him and demanding things from him left, right and centre, but after it all, he still has his daughter Maisie. On this day, Dan is taking her to central London for a day out, her smile seems to paper over the cracks, but by the end of the trip his world is crumbling around him. With intelligible and complex direction from Gwenan Bain, Steven Blacker is a smart, enigmatic and captivating performer, bringing at tear to the eye in his poignant and endearing delivery of a dad who dotes on his daughter. His performance wondrously introduces us to several characters, particularly to Maisie herself, as he voices her playfulness we are left to imagine a bubbly six year old pulling on his sleeve. With that in mind, Blacker exhibits sensational characterisation and storytelling abilities, navigating us at an engaging and fast-pace through the crossing timelines of his retellings, dwelling on moments of disaster and delight in perfect measure.

Goldsmith’s writing of this 45 minute, epic monologue is searingly raw and impassioned, the personable feel to it allows Goldsmith to paint Dan as a universal father figure. We empathise and actually feel his glistening adoration for Maisie, as well as the bitter taste left from his divorce, (a pain he mostly hides for Maisie’s sake, particularly in response to the petty nature of his ex-wife Mandy) and then the loss in his eyes as sadness clouds his vision and he becomes a shell of a man, grief almost physically crippling him. Blacker stormingly conveys this all with his energetic characterisations, knowing looks, heavy sighs, void-like silences and held eye-contact with his audience. Bain has done a phenomenal job of building into her direction these held moments of mournful silence and contrasting motifs in which Blacker envisages and projects Maisie for his audience. The writing beautifully and symbolically coming full circle as Dan finally tells Maisie how tall Nelson’s column is, after earlier recounting how she once asked him that very question and he promised to find out. The design and direction effortlessly mimics and reflects this as Dan begins by stripping the set of most of its tools, paints and sheeting, (a reference to his job), showing that beneath it all, he is just a man, a father. Grief incapacitates him, forcing Dan to put down his tools completely, we only see him picking up the tools again once he’s financially forced back to the job and truly seems to have worked through much of his hurting. What’s underneath the sheets, paints and tools is new, signifying that he’s coming out the other end to a fresh beginning. This is all embellished by a superbly intricate sound design.

What’s so powerful and intriguing about Maisie, is the emphasis on the male perspective regarding parenthood, we do so often see from a female angle and do not necessarily delve much into what it must be like only seeing your child on weekends and not feeling as if you are bringing them up by living with them 24/7. Coinciding with some Herculean explorations into human kindness and mental health, Maisie also provides a complex divergence into the nature of thought processes and the many avenues the brain can take when in shock or grieving. Staging these particularly well.

To conclude Blacker seizes the innumerable challenge of this show, he delivers not just a story with a duplicity of characters, but a true rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. Bain, in her direction, proves herself to be a true artist, carefully crafting the balance of Dan’s story, making sure each joyful or plaintive moment expertly lands. Whilst Goldsmith writes such a rhythmic, realistic and relatable story, that’s engaging and emotional from the offset. We hugely recommend this pocket-sized powerful piece. Maisie runs at The Bread and Roses Theatre until Saturday 8th Dec, click here to book now.

 

Goldsmith Productions co-produced by Stage Splinters
Performed by Steven Blacker
Directed by Gwenan Bain
Written by Roger Goldsmith
Technician Jordan Moffat

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