London in 1966 has been brought back to life in the dark and smoky setting of the Old Red Lion. The Local Stigmatic by Heathcote Williams tells the story of Graham and Ray, two men with sociopathic tendencies obsessed with betting on dogs and following mildly famous actors around the city. The plot may sound strange and it is. This is not a play to go see for the story. Rather, it is a portrayal of London in the 1960s, with the leather jackets, the music and the dark sunglasses that make the actors look even more mysterious than they already are. Oftentimes, the characters will mention certain boroughs or names of streets in London. This could add a feeling of nostalgia for those far away from the city or those wishing to go back to another time.
The bond between Graham and Ray is a strange one. It leaves the audience questioning it even after the end of the performance. Graham, played by Wilson James, always speaks with hugely expressive eyes, which frightens and fascinates the spectators all at once. James’ performance is truly enigmatic and very poignant. Ray, played by William Frazer, is a different kind of strange. While seemingly enjoying spending time with his friend, he also seems scared of him. It seems to be a relationship of power where one man cannot seem to escape from the other. With only three actors performance, Tom Sawyer’s portrayal of both a man on the street and of an actor being followed by Graham and Ray is worth a mention. He is able to transition easily from one character to the next and allows the audience to understand the extent to which the other two men break all social boundaries by partaking in their unconventional hobbies.
The stage is very small yet the set design make the scenes seem like they are in completely different locations, from the flat, to a bar, and even a dark street at night. The use of lighting is very effective here. Without it, the play would lack the strength it has. Another excellent addition is the music during the performance. Captivating the audience, it takes everyone back to the 1960s during scene transitions. The best part of the set design is without a doubt the wall covered with famous people of the time, from the Queen to the Beatles. It is a small detail but a great one to add to the time period.
Audiences should not be skeptical of the anti-heroes of the play. This is not a play that leaves you smiling nor does it leave you crying. With humorous aspects to it, it remains a dark piece focused around violence and anger. Until May 28th, The Local Stigmatic at the Old Red Lion paints a portrait of London in a different time with unconventional characters that are mysteriously fascinating to analyze.