Who @ 50: The Pyramids of Margate – LIVE!

Posted on November 28, 2013

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Doctor Who obsessive seeks alien life for fun and possibly more. GSOH. Will David strike gold with his laptop link-up to SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)? Or will he find earthly happiness in the arms of the voluptuous Polish girl from accounts?

Martin Stewart’s one man show is a curious blend of the dark and the daft. By all accounts, Thanet District Council seems to be a dynamic place to work if The Pyramids of Margate is anything to go by. David, a 40-something IT worker, is desperately trying to overcome his social awkwardness to go on a date with the beautiful Aggie. But both Doctor Who, and David’s participation in the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project are about to get in the way with disastrous consequences.

Sadly, the SETI subplot feels jarring, as if you’ve slid into a different show. Much more interesting, and with the potential to be really dark are the recollections of his recently deceased mother. The attachment to his Tom Baker scarf, specifically because it was knitted by his mother, is a beautifully realised image, and one many Doctor Who fans can likely relate to. Similarly, his recollections of the now boarded up fairground rides of his youth combine to produce something rather horrific yet compellingly fascinating.

Elsewhere, there is commentary on the difficulties of being obsessive about something, be that a hobby, or in this case, an aging science fiction programme. His statement of feeling ‘black and white in a high-definition Technicolor world’ is as heart-rending as it is insightful. Its flashes of brilliance like this that cements Stewart as a thoughtful performer.

Stewart’s one man show is certainly has an energetic and infectious delivery. His enthusiasm for the subject matter is rammed home by the zippy delivery. But sometimes it’s a tad too fast and furious. You end up feeling like as if you’re hanging onto Paul McGann’s coat-tails as he zips though the San Francisco streets (a gag for the Who fans there). This energetic delivery accentuates the more irritating elements of David’s personality as well as his need for a companion in his life.

Fan accounts, as I’ve commented before, are intensely personal and to sometimes try and tread a fine line between satisfying the casual theatre goer and the die-hard Doctor Who fan. Combine this with the potential pitfalls of a one-man show and there is the potential for The Pyramids of Margate to go very very wrong. Sadly, the second half of Stewart’s monologue becomes increasingly more reliant on Doctor Who jokes and references that may baffle your average punter. Admittedly, this particular performance at the Lass O’Gowrie was perfectly timed to cater to a Doctor Who loving audience.

Your enjoyment of The Pyramids of Margate will hinge on whether or not the narrative of David lifting a jiffy bag from his head whilst pretending to be Omega from ‘The Three Doctors’ is amusing. For the non-Who readers, at this point, Omega has just discovered that he no longer physically exists – a not too subtle metaphor for how David presumably feels as the entire pub he’s in falls deathly quiet at his impression of a 1970’s special effect.

The Pyramids of Margate is a diverting wander through a few disparate strands of drama. It’s at its strongest when exploring the effects of what relics our parents leave with us and the lonely existence that this fosters but ultimately falls down at the last hurdle with a conclusion that feels expository, slightly rushed and just that little bit too convenient. I can’t help but wish there hadn’t been a happy ending. The Doctor can’t always help – and The Pyramids of Margate is a missed chance to explore that further.

The Fiction Stroker gives The Pyramids of Margate three strokes out of five:

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Posted in: Theatre