Enthralling tale of a personal boom and bust, with a coda descent into madness, presented with technical panache and vibrant live music.
‘One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off,’ said Anton Chekhov, and The Golden Run doesn’t waste a moment, opening with an enraged hero and three shots of a pistol. His fit of vengeance spent, Henry Arkwell is found to be insane and confined away from society. Arkwell’s solitude is disrupted by a visit from a vision of Bill Cullen, his dearest friend, hero, saviour and eventual nemesis. Reminiscing, Arkwell regales his invisible companion with the tale of their discovery of gold, founding a town together, memories of their many good times and the eventual fall from grace as the town collapses as the seams are worked out and Arkwell likewise collapses as his sanity and fortunes diminish.
Matt Crossland brings a leisurely pace to his tale of rags to riches to murder. Liberally peppered with clichés, such as ‘busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition,’ the script is full of vivid colourful characters and abrupt changes in fortune for better and worse. Crossland’s stage presence fits the narrative and his character with a captivating sense of timing.
However, the technical design is the true star of the show. A Fringe show performed behind the funky local restaurant, The Moon, featuring a colourbond roof over a make-shift stage, eclectic décor capturing the impression of every student share house all at once, restaurant tables pushed aside with menus, salt and pepper and spare cutlery still in place – none of this promises more than a rough and ready independent performance. However, using a simple fly wire screen prop, clever projections bring scene changes, key moments and characters to life. The microphones hanging above the stage clearly capture Crossland’s monologue and rising and falling voice, with perfect sound design and control ensuring that the accompanying live music performance from Smokey Joe supports, rather than drowns the narrative’s progress.
The musical score includes accordion, an oddball range of percussion ranging from bodhran to spoons, slide guitar, whistling and jocular chorus as the musicians create their own rowdy scenes in a rough mining pub. With careful observation and timing, the soundtrack enhances the tale, never allowing the energy of the overall performance to ebb, despite some slow and mournful moments in Arkwell’s memories.
The Golden Run demonstrates the best aspects of Fringe theatre work, an unlikely combination of venue, strong script, exciting musicianship and precise and experimental technical design creating impressive entertainment.
Rating: 4 ½ stars
The Golden Run
Presented by Roly Skender and Stoney Sound System
Live music: Stoney Joe
Projection and mixed media presentation: Roly Skender
Performed by Matt Crossland
The Moon, Northbridge
7 – 10 February 2018
Part of Fringe World 2018