Insignificance, Arcola, review: ‘Fun to be had in imitations of the famous and the presentation of absurdity’

PUBLISHED: 13:12 30 October 2017

Insignificance: Simon Rouse and Alice Bailey Johnson, Arcola Theatre. Picture: Alex Brenner

Insignificance: Simon Rouse and Alice Bailey Johnson, Arcola Theatre. Picture: Alex Brenner

(c) Alex Brenner

It’s the 1950s and a New York hotel room is being occupied by Albert Einstein...

It’s the 1950s and a New York hotel room is being occupied by Albert Einstein (Simon Rouse).

Late at night, from the teeming streets and the hullabaloo of hysterical fandom, Marilyn Monroe (Alice Bailey Johnson) seeks sanctuary by door-stepping the scientist. His previous visitor? Senator Joseph McCarthy (Tom Mannion). Now, with the starlet pacing about his room, he must entertain company once more. Monroe, keen to dispel common perception, insists that she comprehends the theory of relativity and wants to explain it back to him.

Excitedly, she expresses her knowledge with an array of props. Caught up in the moment, she makes a pass at the veteran, before an interruption arrives in the form of a loud bang on the door. Marilyn is being chased down by her husband, Joe DiMaggio (Oliver Hembrough): the legendary baseball player. DiMaggio is flustered and his heart is aching. Unable to understand his wife on a deeper intellectual level, he is depicted as something of an unreconstructed male, albeit with a soft, sensitive side.

The strongest strand of the story rests with the failing relationship of DiMaggio and Monroe. Joseph McCarthy and Einstein might exchange fleeting and fiery theories about society, but Terry Johnson’s script is best appreciated as a light-hearted romp. Fun can certainly be had with the imitations of the famous and the presentation of an absurd situation. The performances are strong enough and exude the requisite degree of enthusiasm to drag it across the finishing line.

This is a play that embraces its surrealism with wanton abandon. Veering between tacky pastiche and weighty meditation - and sometimes both at once - it is something of a curious curate’s egg.

The main question that persists is ‘why?’ Why are we being told this tale? The narrative itself seems unsure as to what it is, and this only leads to uncertainty. To borrow from the title, it would be too pejorative and damning to call Insignificance “insignificant”, but it stops short of being substantial. It is, however, visually arresting and interspersed with a number of witty, sharp quips to garner a hearty chuckle or three.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

3 minutes ago

The fourth-placed side in Division Three will travel to the team third in the table this weekend

20 minutes ago

South Hampstead’s Olivia Rael-Brook has qualified as top seed for the final of the American Golf UK Long Drive Championships.

07:00

England hockey keeper Maddie Hinch has been put through her paces ahead of this summer’s World Cup in London — albeit in fairly unusual circumstances.

8 minutes ago

Michael Hammerson from Highgate is a keen amateur photographer, who on a weekend wander across the Heath, saw something quite remarkable.

25 minutes ago

The Children’s Bookshop in Muswell Hill has been part of the community since the 1970s.

34 minutes ago

Perhaps inspired by World Cup fever or Wimbledon, thousands of eager sporting heroes flocked to Hampstead Heath last weekend to take part in activities ranging from football to sack races, with some trying sport for the very first time.

07:54

The plans to redevelop 100 Avenue Road hit a bump in the road last night, after a heated Camden Council planning committee meeting saw the Construction Management Plan (CMP) for the Swiss Cottage project rejected.

Yesterday, 21:07

Middlesex lost to Somerset by four wickets with 12 balls remaining at a packed Lord’s in the T20 Vitality Blast on Thursday evening at Lord’s. Read on for Layth Yousif’s report

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now