by Andrea Gaini
The houselights go off, a man walks in the dark and as he steps up on a crate, a single light illuminates his long body. Michael Mears, playing James Brightmore, reads aloud a letter he is writing to his family, explaining the condition he is forced to live in the cell he has been put in for being a Conscientious Objector.
This Evil Thing, written and interpreted by Mr. Mears, is a play that commemorates the centenary of the end of World War One coming up next year, but from a very different perspective. One that many had forgotten, but that is extremely important to remember. The perspective of those who took the bull by the horns and said no to war. The perspective of those who refused to fight in the greatest war the world ever saw.
The story follows the lives of some activists such as Bertrand Russel and Bert Brocklesby who dedicated their lives and risked it to the purpose of stopping a war that was killing thousands of people. The writer, as a pacifist, also asks himself, all throughout the play, if he’d had been as brave as them to fight against war.
The setting of the show is very simple: a few wooden boxes and crates put (seemingly) randomly around the stage, a coat hook on the left and a rope right next to it. However, the show is completely dependent on these few items and when moved around by Mr. Mears they create different scenarios and places which seem to have been unconnected. Each box, crate or prop is used with such care and delicacy by the performer that they seem to be vital to his survival even beyond the play.
While the setting might be simple, the play is very complex especially because it follows the story of two characters, but with the interactions of many others, all played by Michael Mears. The topic is a complicated one and not very well known by the audience, however, Mears does an excellent job in including those important details that help the audience grab the significance of each moment in the story. As it can be understood by the performance, this one-man-show was the product of many different adaptations of this play. Mears says in the after-show questions that he “started off the production with a massive cast” then he cut it down to four before reshaping it to be played by one single performer which he describes as “the best way to interpret this story”.
I must admit, having so many characters all played by himself doesn’t really help with the understanding of the complicated story. The brilliant changes of character that Mears was somewhat apparent, but at times slightly took away the audiences’ attention causing them to lose the first few lines of the new character. Nevertheless, this does not interfere with the greatness of this play and its interpreter. Mears’ work is one of those plays which you bring home for the things it teaches you and the wider understanding of our world it gives you. Furthermore, in the after-show questions, we got to see the great dedication and hard work that Mr. Mears has put on to write and interpret this play and that was undoubtedly among the inspiring elements of this production.