Sam. The Good Person
Reviewed – 15th January 2019
“a black comedy but with a triple measure of black and just a sip of comedy”
Sam, The Good Person is not only a one-man show; the only actor is also the only writer. Declan Perring as the eponymous Sam, performs seventy five minutes of intense, sometimes comic soliloquy set during group therapy, as he recalls his life story so far. It is a story that some will recognise in a small way from their own life as Sam desperately craves the approval of others, but the extreme lengths he goes leads to, lead to a lifetime of lying and deception, culminating in extreme sadness.
Perring offers up an energetic and solid performance of Sam, punctuated with other characters and interludes which signify the panic attacks which the ultimately dislikeable Sam begins to experience. In the show, a handful of people are conspicuously missing as Perring tries to animate each of Sam’s Mother and Father, his childhood friend, his stalker from his youth and lastly his girlfriend of five years. Like a general seeking glory against the odds and so taking the battles he shouldn’t, Perring’s valiant effort on stage only masks his decision not to give full life to characters who so clearly warranted it. Director Stephanie Withers is complicit in this merry action with Perring jumping up and down from his seat and switching voices leaving it unclear whether this is Sam’s internal vision of these people or a real flashback fashioned by a mettlesome writer.
With the script itself, there is yet more complexity from strong, meaningful themes with real depth intertwined cutting against cliche lines and characters. This is a writer and a director who understand the realities of how anxiety turns good people into bad ones, and how that tension unfolds in the moment. Sam is grappling not just with the desire to be liked but his own condemnation of that desire, and he is moved faster and faster as he ricochets off those two points. It’s, therefore, more unfortunate that, at times, the script slips quietly into cliches such as ‘being noticed by the opposite sex’ or ‘the drugs made me numb, which I liked’. This tidy shorthand inevitably picks away at the deep feeling of authenticity or even autobiography.
Sam. The Good Person is a black comedy but with a triple measure of black and just a sip of comedy for a perfunctory chaser. The play culminates in real, total misery as Sam spirals downwards and the jokes peter out. Perring and Withers whisk the audience from spiky one-liners into a modern tragedy and with all the inevitability and fatedness of an ancient one. An interesting play with tapered peaks of authenticity and personal meaning set between shadowy valleys of missing actors, the somewhat dislikeable main character and a twist at the end which is less M. Night Shyamalan and more “then I woke up from a dream, or did I…’
Reviewed by William Nash
Photography by William Alder
Sam. The Good Person
The Bunker until 19th January
Last ten reviewed at this venue: