As a Man Grows Younger at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Written by Howard Colyer, As a Man Grows Younger takes the form of a 70-minute dramatic monologue from the point of view of Italo Svevo, a writer born in 1861 who was close friends with James Joyce, and was whom Joyce’s character Leopold Bloom in Ulysses was modelled after. In it, we see Svevo living in Mussolini’s Italy, and agonising over whether or not the Fascist government will accept his new play or arrest him for it.
That, however, is not nearly enough to make a viewer interested in the innermost rambling thoughts of Svevo for an uninterrupted hour and ten minutes. Even though As a Man Grow Younger is a comparatively short play, theatregoers are well aware of every single second that ticks slowly by.
The small space of the stage is used effectively to represent the author’s office, and David Bromley gets a few laughs from the audience with impressions of Svevo’s foreboding mother-in-law and pragmatic wife, but that does not an absorbing monologue make. Nor does it allow for the fostering of enough empathy to get us to care about Colyer’s version of Svevo, as he ribbits abrasively every time he is supposedly feeling fear, or repetitively yells dates, or jumps wildly from topic to topic with very little indication as to why. What we are presented with here is not a stream of consciousness, but rather a form of mental hopscotch with absolutely no pay off for keeping up.
These clichéd attempts at using various quirky idiosyncrasies as a way of conveying genius pale in comparison to those that we’ve already seen countless times, and to see it poorly done renders this piece boring and grating. Surely Svevo had more to offer than pantomime impressions of people, anxious self indulgent waffle about his best and worst reviews, and name dropping James Joyce every now and again. When a play can’t even get its audience to care about whether or not the main character is about to be tortured by a grossly immoral government, then there’s something very wrong.
Photo: Tim Stubbs Hughes
As a Man Grows Younger is at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 19th February until 23rd February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.