Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Standard Bearer

British actor Neil Dickson runs in "The Standard Bearer" at the Stephanie Feury Workshop, set up as an intimate hut in the shadow of Paramount Studios- and he couldn't feel more at home even though the play is set deep in the African sub-continent circa 1982. Dickson, best known to UK and Adventure film fans as Biggles, the WW1 Sopwith Camel flying ace in the 1985 film of the same name (full disclosure: this reviewer is a long-time friend, as we both made our feature film debuts together starring in this "time-travel, win the war" film, an 80's gem) inhabits his character's wanderlust and resignation in the time-honored tradition of British gents the world over, whether they be spies or conquerors or, as in this case, minstrels with a story. Parts like this don't come along often and Dickson makes the most of it with an effective duality. Entering like an old pair of shoes in search of their wearer, his well-worn frame giving us his history, we see his soul spark to life yet again as he shares prose and verse to his nightly new audience of native students, as he tours his one-man show ever deeper into the abyss. As did Finney in "Under the Volcano" or Olivier as Archie Rice in "The Entertainer", Neil hits all the right notes, as one must, when one portrays an Englishman of status, pun intended; because never is an actor more alone than the last moment before he enters an empty stage. And rarely is an audience let in as much as this. That is the magic of theatre. An empty set, the bamboo, the table, the bottle of "water", the empty soul; shedding his story nightly and by so doing rejuvenating, again-- to do it again. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow....of course he will make peace with himself and his offstage traveling companions, because that is the point, off the show and of his life. To make peace with this piece. That is his life's journey. Art and Nature share a mutual reason to exist, and that is to find LIFE: to live, to fight, to love. All to live again.That is Neil Dickson as "The Standard Bearer."

As he settles into the run, Neil is sure to settle into the role of a lifetime, if he wants it to be. By working against the more melancholy strains in the material, Neil brings a quality of perseverance, optimism and mercy that no doubt will mature in the running of it and become more, shall we say, cloying. As it does, what initially seems sweet may be actually become more distasteful, as if he were adding just a touch more vermouth to his "water". As a friend it was great to see him fill that empty stage. As an actor it will be greater even to see him fill the character and make this role a singularity for him, and only him.

The one-act runs through mid-November. See ad below.

Directed by Julian Sands and Produced by Jill Schoelen.

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