The Rain that Washes at the Leicester Square Theatre
The Rain that Washes at the Leicester Square Theatre is a new run of the Chicken Shed’s one-man play about survival during some of the darkest times of Zimbabwe’s history. Based loosely on the real life experiences of Chicken Shed member Christopher Maphosa, the play was written by Maphosa and Dave Carey. Ashley Maynard, under the direction of Kieran Fay, takes on all the roles to bring this personal tale to life. We watch the story of Michael a young man growing up as his country changes irrevocably; civil war, independence and political turmoil play out in the background.
A one-man play is always an ambitious undertaking even more so with such a small stage and minimalist set dressing. The whole success of the endeavour relies on the ability of the actor to draw the audience in and keep them engrossed for the entirety of the play. Ashley Maynard does a splendid job switching between characters using small visual changes, such as buttoning up his shirt, to serve as clues as to who is speaking. With a host of characters appearing throughout the play these distinctions became very important to following the plot. While the quick character changes worked excellently in the comedic scenes, Maynard being a supremely talented physical actor, in some of the more hard-hitting sections of the story the rapid succession of character changes softened some of the impact of these scenes.
Maynard’s use of a different voice for every character was masterful and it was like watching a reading for an audio book but with the added nuances of a physical performance. Once or twice the voices became slightly blurred but due to the use of visual indicators this was not a problem. Also, there were some accents that needed some work; most noticeably former Prime Minister Ian Smith and the Simpsonesque Bulgarian accent sounded parodic. However on the whole Maynard skilfully slipped between characters and at no point did he seem to tire or lose focus which is an impressive feat considering how exhausting his roles must be.
The Rain that Washes is the story of a nation’s strife told through the experiences of one man. The play is at its best when the audience is subtly led through the more extreme aspects of Zimbabwe’s history by Michael. Occasionally the story drifts into being a little overwrought with mild hysteria at points, but only in very brief flashes. A solid performance from Maynard and excellent lighting from Michael Gavas make this an enjoyable and interesting show.
The Rain that Washes is at the Leicester Square Theatre from 21st September until 6th October 2012. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.