The Diary of Maynard Perdu, Smock Alley Theatre – Dublin
Writer: Billy Roche
Director: Billy Roche
Peter McCamley takes to the stage as the one and only Maynard Perdu. Over the course of the next one-and-a-half hours he takes the audience on a journey through the exceptional life of Maynard Perdu; something of a dandy.
He lives in a world of the fantastic, in the mirrored, burlesque world of the Spiegeltent where fantasy and illusion reign supreme. He creates an imagined life for himself and sets out to live it to the full. But how much is real and how much is an invention? He is a showman, turning the stage into a carnival, he is a ship’s lookout preparing for a show, he is a man who has women fighting over him, giving up their comfortable lives to follow him into a life of adventure and excitement. He shifts shape and becomes a new person whenever the need arises. This process is entertaining as McCamley’s moves across the stage in this one-man show. He displays great ability as he switches characters, accents, manoeuvres props and turns the stage into his own.
The layers of Maynard Perdu become visible and begin to be stripped back when he returns to his birthplace and finds himself in surroundings that are both familiar and strange. The script, by writer and musician Billy Roche, plays around with the idea of identity, and whether a person is who they were born as or who they make themselves into. Truth and certainty slip through one’s fingers like Maynard’s fine words and intricate tales.
Particular attention has been paid to the props and staging, and stage manager Aileen Donohoe and assistant stage manager Sadhbh Cullinana should be applauded for the amount of thought and effort that went into creating the set. Atmospheric and cosy when needed, the stage can also become the scene of dramatic disagreements, imprisonment, the start of a new life and more. This is done with remarkable dexterity.
McCamley changes clothes throughout. As he does his character changes also. He begins in bright, luxurious leather and silk but the play ends on a very different note. Wearing black and having to face up to the reality of his new life, his clothing and the background devoid of colour and light, the play ends on a somewhat sad and tender note. The lines between reality and illusion look like they might have been redrawn but where does that lead our Maynard Perdu? Having experienced loss and confusion a new man stands before us, perhaps with one more story to tell.
Closing with a standing ovation The Diary of Maynard Perduis an intricate play that as it unwinds takes the audience into the mind and heart of a wandering soul.