The Man Who Fell to Pieces review at the MAC, Belfast – ‘honest and heartbreaking’
John is not just cracking up. He’s falling apart. But why? He has a steady if humdrum job, a caring mother and a pretty girlfriend, who adores him. He tries to hold himself together using staples and tape but it’s not working.
Patrick J O’Reilly’s The Man Who Fell to Pieces, a searingly honest and inventive interpretation of a real life mental crisis, is the first of three new productions which constitute Edgefest, a season by two of Belfast’s longest established independents, Tinderbox and Prime Cut, focusing on the issue of male mental health.
Ciaran Bagnall’s chaotic living room set offers glimpses into John’s mental state. Under the influence of O’Reilly’s Lecoq-inspired direction, Shaun Blaney delivers a sincere, intensely physical central performance.
It’s a challenging role that alternates between narrator and protagonist, these switches marked by Katie Richardson’s multi-layered soundscape.
Roisin Gallagher and Patrick Buchanan add real grist to the characters of girlfriend Caroline and Henry, the handsome handyman summoned to fix everything that John’s mother Alice contrives to break. But even he can’t fix John.
The needy, neurotic, abandoned Alice is tautly played by Maria Connolly. John’s disintegration is cleverly conveyed through a handful of Warhol-style prints, balanced unevenly across his body.
As narrator, John finally declares that his visible cracks and their repairs are to be cherished not concealed. He has come through. Others, sadly, do not.