The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
Reviewer's rating

In Genesis, the serpent tricks Eve leading them out of the Garden of Eden, and into humanity, a place of toil, embarrassment and nakedness. In the Dream of a Ridiculous Man, we see the Ridiculous Man coming to terms with his role as a serpent in his dreamt-up paradise. An adaptation of the Dostoevsky story, this play idealizes communism in society, but, to cater to modern issues, the contemporary revision now touches upon current social issues; immigrant boats arriving on England’s shores and drug abuse.

Directed by Laurence Boswell, the play transports the story from 19th century St Petersburg to 21st century London, allowing the audience to view how the Ridiculous Man grapples with the meaning of life, while silently laughing at quintessential London accents and pub culture . The one-man show performed so excellently by Greg Hicks began by exploring themes such as loneliness and depression, before introducing us starkly to the suicidal intent of the protagonist. The gun was in his mouth; he had been wrestling with his dark thoughts for months before the hallowed evening of November 3rd, when a star finally gave him the sign to go along with his intentions. The pull-the-trigger moment, however, was prevented; he fell asleep. This scene introduced us to the dream, where the Man elaborates on his vision of an island paradise, where everyone is loving, and helps one another, a Utopian communist ideal. He wakes up enlightened, having seen the wonders of a world run by kindness, not the invisible hand that drives our selfish desires .But, as we all know from history books, and even holy books, the reality of humanity is not kind; humans are selfish and thrive in packs. He returns to the dream; but in this revision, he admits his role as a corrupter of society, teaching the inhabitants of this paradise to lie. This small snippet of sin leads the whole island down a path of rebellion, war and dishonorable leadership – something we now like to call : life.

But this really is where the Ridiculous Man starts to appreciate the beauty of existence. It is in this second ‘dystopian’ paradise society where the Man discovers his role in the world and appears relaxed. He has learned how to live a fulfilling life in a world full of suffering by telling his story.

This one-man performance is livened up with Boswell’s creative storytelling techniques. With the help of a surround sound system, the audience is transported to the depths of the Man’s dark thoughts and the heights of relaxation he experienced in his paradise.The piece begins with the Man taking a seat on a suitcase which he brings with him throughout the production, opening it up during a few monologues to uncover props and outfit changes. A diverse array of art pieces are projected onto the curtain background throughout the retelling of this story, and objects behind the curtain were manipulated to enhance scene changes. This curtain is dropped near the end of the piece revealing the items that fashioned the shadows, as the Man’s mind is cleared. He begins and ends sitting stage front on the suitcase, a chiastic structure, which contrasts the character’s 180 degree shift in perspective.

The impeccable use of body language and impressive, yet comedic accents, allows depth to a cast of one. The show has no intermission, so you are forced to concentrate on this one ‘Ridiculous Man’ , as he reflects on something common to us all, humanity. And that’s when you realise, he is not so ridiculous, in fact.

 Marylebone Theatre,

Based on a short story by Dostoyevsky

Adapted and directed by Laurence Boswell

One man show:  Greg Hicks

Running time: 75 minutes (no interval). 

Until: 20 April

Photo credit: Mark Senior