Will Eno’s Title and Deed is a tall order for any actor. The play is a one-person show consisting of a 75-minute monologue about the life of an unnamed immigrant who has traveled from one unspecified country to another. Aware that he is in a play (even pleading with the audience to leave quietly if they decide it’s not a very good one), the immigrant, played convincingly by Inkwell’s own Keelan Swift-Stalley, tells his story to the crowd.
As I took my seat and waited eagerly for the show to begin, Swift-Stalley was already in character, improvising in a back and forth with the audience. Swift-Stalley is a natural comedian whose skills in improvisation come off effortlessly, and are totally in keeping with Eno’s original character. In fact, if it wasn’t for the change in lighting – kept simple with two spotlights illuminating Swift-Stalley, who sits on a stall centre of an otherwise empty stage – I probably wouldn’t have guessed when the actual play began.
Over the next hour the life of this immigrant: his relationship with his parents, the never-quite-fully-revealed reasons for his departure, his dreams, his regrets, all spill out. At first comedic and awkward, the play slowly becomes packed with emotion and pulls at your heart. Swift-Stalley’s intimate and innovative performance appeals to parts of us often forgotten. It’s ultimately a study of humanity which challenges our perceptions of ‘otherness’, reminding us of what we have in common with others rather than what makes us different.
Admittedly, there were a few moments where the performance did falter. Being the second performance of the show that night, Swift-Stalley understandably had to call for lines on occasion. However, ever ready to improvise, the actor quite ingeniously treated director Sean Bennett just like the audience, as if he was simply someone else to be brought into the show. These moments, rare and possibly even something one could believe as intentional, were either unnoticed or enjoyed by the audience.
A word must also go out towards Sean Bennett for his excellent directing. The simplicity of the set, costume, lighting and the sparing use of music all complimented and gave focus to the raw emotion brought out of Eno’s character through Swift-Stalley’s performance.
Following the success of this performance and Inkwell’s previous production of Waiting for Godot last November, this thought-provoking and engaging performance left me excited to see what the UEA based production company has next up their sleeve. Should you get the chance, I’d urge you to find out too.