MIND FULL at the Hope Theatre
“Mind Full is funny, but sometimes feels uncertain”
This intimate comedy takes a look at two universal frustrations: struggling to sleep and struggling to get over someone.
James (Tom Hartwell) is a self-diagnosed insomniac. He knows he is because he Googled it at 4am. He hasn’t slept well since his terrible break up, six months ago. In his desperation he turns to mindfulness apps. But his ex is a thriving voiceover actor. He can’t get her voice out of his head. Or his headphones. At first it seems to be just him who’s struggling, but we soon learn Claire (Katherine Moran) can’t sleep either. The former couple cycle through memories of their failed relationship as they struggle to move on and find some much needed shut eye.
We’re welcomed into the bedroom, with the space being dominated by a large double bed, and off to the side, a microphone. Conor Cook’s direction really pays off here, as the microphone creates the world of the couple’s respective work (voice acting and stand-up comedy) and the bed creates their private world. The interference and sabotage between these worlds, sometimes funny, sometimes moving, works well to show the crumbling of the relationship.
It’s a funny idea, and there are moments where it really takes off There’s a long bit where James comments on all of the places he hears Claire’s voice – apps, supermarket checkouts, train announcements – and what she might be saying to him (lots of jokes at the expense of his sexual prowess). The script, written by Tom Hartwell, who also plays James, is packed with gags. At times though the comedy takes priority, to the detriment of emotional truth. To be fair, sometimes that’s the point. The play deals with questions around comedy, and how much of your own life, and the lives of people you love, is fair game. As with any piece which incorporates stand-up, it does raise the question of how much of it is meant to be funny. There is a mortifying moment where James fluffs it at Live at the Apollo, made weirder by the taped in applause of a fake audience, leaving the real audience a little uncertain of our place in the show.
There is real chemistry between Hartwell and Moran, and the early stages of their relationship are charming. Moran is particularly strong, making a potentially whiny character, warm, hilarious and totally reasonable. Hartwell is also very funny, and his comic timing is impeccable.
The simple lighting (Jonathan Simpson) and sound (Conor Cook) help to create the private bubble of this couple’s life.
Mind Full is funny, but sometimes feels uncertain. It’s not quite stand-up, and not quite plot focussed narrative, at times it verges on sketch comedy. But it’s enjoyable, fast-paced and well-performed.
Reviewed on 7th March 2023
by Auriol Reddaway
Photography by Rebecca Rayne
Previously reviewed at this venue: