Like climbing Everest, undertaking a one-man show is not for the faint-hearted. Just because it is there, does not mean everyone must attempt it. With no-one to play off, distract the audience, or provide respite from the singular personality which dominates proceedings, any weakness in the script, the direction, or the performance seems somehow amplified. The brave actor who attempts the ascent must posses charisma, character and chutzpah in abundance.
Thankfully, James Kermack could charm the birds from the trees. And in Fever Pitch, he is so perfectly cast that he needs waste not one second of his bravura performance in an attempt to win the audience over; rather, with a cheeky grin, a twinkle in his eyes and an energy that could power the Emirates, Kermack launches directly into a slick, polished performance that assumes the audience has already taken his football obsessed narrator to their hearts.
this is a sparkling gem which dances with all the elegance of Liam Brady’s magical left foot.
It is a presumption that pays off. Kermack deftly recreates scenes and characters in the blink of an eye. Paul Hodson’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s autobiographical novel, Fever Pitch, originally subtitled A Fan’s Life, wisely focuses more on the ‘life’ of the protagonist rather than ‘fan’ aspect. At times, the detailed references to Arsenal players and hallowed matches may go over the heads of some of the audience, but Kermack nonetheless breathes enough life into the story and his character for the audience to remain enthralled throughout.
There are moments where the direction occasionally lacks pace and detail, but on the whole the production is lucid, intelligent and flowing. At its most witty this is a sparkling gem which dances with all the elegance of Liam Brady’s magical left foot. Like the legendary matches it references it is a true crowd pleaser, the highpoints always outperforming the lows. The script never allows the protagonist to appear in anything other than a sympathetic light, thereby failing to offer enough light and shade, but there is enough self-deprecating humour to hint at a less polished facade beneath the joy, and this is, after all, for the fans who roar in delight rather than sob on the terraces.
The real strength of this production however lies in Kermack’s easy rapport with the audience and his commitment to the character. He eschews the simple route, the all too easy showcase of his considerable talent, and instead gives the audience a living character to care about. It is a pitch perfect performance which carries the audience along on the wave of excitement.
**** (4 stars)
Touring until 12th May