Review: Absolute Certainty
Image: White Bear Theatre
Cast and creatives
Andrew Murton - Mike Dunhill
Justin Stahley - Jamie Roberts
Madeleine Dunne - Anne Marie
Laila Bouromane - Nics
Niall Bishop - PC Fitzgerald/ Mr Shinley
Radio VO - Sophie Dean
Mike Dunhill is a quiet man.
A typical introvert.
He lives a life of seemingly quiet solitude.
But something is off.
His work colleagues at the greeting card company can't quite figure him out.
Whilst they battle it out for brownie points from Mr Shinley their boss, Mike seems to be fighting his own battles.
He does make a friend at work, but their friendship doesn't last.
What is it about Mike?
Is it always the quiet ones who snap?
In a world of noise and confusion it can be hard to find peace and clarity.
When the lines of gossip and facts are blurred, how can we be absolutely certain what's real and what's not?
Absolute Certainty is the debut play by writer and actress Laila Bouromane with Hambre Productions.
The bad news about this production is that it's only running for three more performances, which doesn't give you much time if you intend seeing it.
The good news is that it's a compelling piece which deserves to be seen.
Absolute Certainty is the debut work of Laila Bouromane, who also features here among the cast.
Apart from drawing on the acting skills of her playwright, director Susan Raasay has also recruited two fine actors - Andrew Murton and Justin Stahley - who I saw together recently in the fascinating two-hander, Another Northern Man, at The Hope Theatre.
And there's an interesting link between these two actors and the events in this play - Messrs Murton and Stahley both find themselves here in therapy, but for very different reasons, whereas in Another Northern Man one played a therapist and the other was his client.
Here, Andrew Murton takes the lead in a powerful performance as a quiet, methodical and long-serving accountant, Michael, who works for what seems to be a fairly small greetings card company.
It's the kind of office setting - an open plan space - where employees recognise each other, and maybe pass the time of day in areas like the kitchen, but don't really know very much about their colleagues.
And Michael probably likes it that way because he's beset by an internal, unending struggle with his own thoughts which leaves little space in his life for social interaction.
Well, that's not quite true, because he does have interactions with the police as we discover at the start of the play when he's being allowed to leave a police station, but we don't know why he has been there.
Justin Stahley's Jamie strikes up a tentative conversation with Michael at the office, and later bumps into him while waiting to see his therapist.
Thus, they have something in common, but both have different kinds of demons they are trying to confront and overcome.
Though Jamie is able to tell us about the failings which led him into therapy, Michael tells us nothing, but we recognise something serious is wrong with him and suspect the worst - for example, that he may be a psychopathic murderer or something along those lines.
Laila Bouromane neatly constructs the plot to keep us guessing pretty much up until the end, so there is a touch of the thriller at work here.
Now I'm not going to discuss the psychological condition which afflicts Michael, for that would be to give too much away - but it is heartbreakingly affecting and here it's described with what is, in my inexpert assessment, considerable and compelling authenticity.
Ms Raasay's sensitive and seamless direction enhances what seems a fairly ordinary, workplace setting into something with a darker and unsettling undercurrent.
She's admirably assisted in her efforts by a top-notch cast who provide totally believable characters - the kind of people we've probably all met at some time in our working lives.
And Ms Raasay contrasts the mundane, everyday setting of the office by playing us Michael's frightening and distressing thoughts through the medium of video projections (ably shot and edited by Laurence Easterbrook).
Now if this play is beginning to sound rather gloomily dark from start to finish, it's actually not.
There's room for humour in a very funny and somewhat unexpected scene between the CEO of the greetings card company and his creative team, who seem ineffectually casual in their approach to designing Valentine's Day cards.
This scene is not merely intended, I believe, as some kind of light relief (even if it does serve that purpose to some extent) but reflects the differences between the way 'ordinary' brains work and how those of people like Michael function.
Hopefully, someone will find space in the schedules to give this production a longer airing - it certainly warrants it as the audience reaction at the end of the piece clearly demonstrated.
And rightly so, for this is an excellent debut play, seasoned by a fine cast and augmented by first-rate direction, which provides revealing, thought-provoking and moving drama.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for White Bear Theatre
Our show listing for Absolute Certainty
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