Half a Person: My Life as Told by the Smiths at the King’s Head Theatre
Lucy Ellinson’s stand-out performance in Grounded last year has brought renewed faith to one-man (and one-woman) shows that are approached hesitantly by some. Here, Joe Presley continues the trend of captivating solo performances in Half a Person: My Life as Told by the Smiths, in which the life of a twenty-something Londoner is told through candid monologues that bring in multiple characters and are shot through with various songs by cult legends The Smiths.
Half a Person is a cleverly put together show that blends witty dialogue with understated intensity from Presley as the hedonistic, self-obsessed William, whose fixations range from himself to the seductive but ultimately false Salomé to the Smiths.
William’s relationships are played out with gradually increasing emotional honesty. The story is peppered with Morrissey’s anguished ballads, which Presley executes with strong vocals and a physicality that bears an impressive likeness to the “Charming Man” himself. The plot occasionally takes an unexpected turn to manoevre itself into song but is on the whole well structured and entertaining.
William’s relationship with his best friend Rick, the man who introduces him to the Smiths, is expertly crafted by Presley who alone forges the two characters’ close but suppressed relationship, where genuine emotions barely emerge from the haze of melodramatic self-indulgence that William casts every time he visits Rick.
It turns out to be the relationship that defines Half a Person and puts the twisting angst of William’s on-off relationship with the illustrious Salomé in perspective. The regular bouts of Morrissey do not feel contrived; it is clear we are witnessing the character’s inner turmoil, but whether we are watching William perform the songs himself, or whether we are supposed to be watching Morrissey is unclear and occasionally stunts this suspension of reality, if only for a second.
It is a simple production, not least because of the set, which due to the show’s performance times is in fact someone else’s. It therefore does not and cannot add anything artistically, but is managed well and the bare black background does seem somewhat fitting.
There are flickers of real depth in the character and while the show provides us with an intensely emotional climax we are left with little empathy towards William, even when he finally shows genuine compassion.
Photo: Michelle Walsh
Half a Person: My Life as Told by the Smiths is at the King’s Head Theatre until 16th February 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Half a Person: My Life as Told by the Smiths here: