The Whipping Man has eight shows left and you should go and see it. Brilliant piece of work. At the near very top of the show, Simon (Sterling Jarvis) performs what we’ll call a “life-saving procedure” on Caleb (Brett Donahue). We’ll call it that so as not to spoiler, and it’s a phrase I borrowed from the NOW review.
In a movie, it would be fairly easy to just “show” the procedure being done, with closeups and CGI and special effects. Done and done. And it would be fairly horrifying – I say more gross than horrifying.
The “procedure” can’t be done in live theatre. Not that way.
Have you ever heard the business phrase “tell us what you’re going to do, do it, show us what you’ve done“? It happens here beautifully.
Instead Simon tells what will happen, in extreme detail, what will happen to Caleb if it isn’t done. And he tells John (Thomas Olajide) how they will do it.
And then they do it.
We hear about it. We see the props needed. And we hear the reaction of the three men as it happens. Lights out. And back up on Caleb recuperating.
The entire audience started squirming as we heard what would happen. And hands were at mouths when we heard how it would happen. And heads dropped and eyes averted as it allegedly happened. The event didn’t happen. But it sounded like it did and we didn’t see anything at all. But we reacted like it was happening before our eyes. Brilliant. Some wonderful acting by those three gentlemen, and brilliant direction by Philip Akin. And the emotions and actions in that scene set it so I would fully believe the inner characters of these men, and that they would act and react as to everything that happens throughout the rest of the play.
Go and hear and see for yourself. It’s really solid work by all involved.
Whipping Man photo by Keith Barker, of Brett Donahue and Sterling Jarvis.