Decades ago a local group The Staccatos had a hit with “Cry to me”. In a teenager’s frame of reference they described loneliness to a tee:
When your baby
Leaves you all alone
Calls you on the phone
Don't you feel like crying
Don't you feel like crying
It goes on to describe the loneliness of being left just with a whiff of perfume and a single glass of wine. You knew, without doubt, all about what it is to be alone.
Decades later, when you meet Muckridge in the solo play The Outlaw Muckridge (by Louis Viljoen) and it’s clear that you have no idea what it is to be alone, that you never had any idea at all.
Muckridge. His name alone tells you a lot about his life and state of mind. He never had a “baby” who left him, and the only call he can ever expect is from his dragon mother in the next room. He lives with her and his only task in life is to keep her clean and listen to abuse. You may think him a coward, a pathetic human being, a wimp. But when he takes you on the journey from his youthful- to middle-aged self, his insight is painful and sometimes too sad to bear. Pathetic people are not born that way. It takes a monster to create one.
It is a bumpy ride to get to know Muckridge. At times you will want to yell at him for not standing up to his mother, and other abusers, but mostly you simply want to cry on his behalf.
Viljoen can assault with words. Sometimes his characters gush verbiage like bullets from a machine gun. But here there is a reserve and a tempo that matches the way this sad story should be told. There is no need to rush. Time is of no essence.
John Maytham portrays the damaged man with empathy. When he retreats to his fantasy world to become the vengeful cowboy he straightens up and, for a moment, he and the audience can almost believe he can do it. But his past shoots down the brave hero, it takes only seconds and the broken man is back once more.
The Outlaw Muckridge was written in lockdown and its theme is something everybody can relate to. It is the first production playing in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio since lockdown started. But all credit to Viljoen and Matham that it’s not all about this time of social distancing. It shows that being isolated is scary. Most of us have known this for a few months already, but this play deals with a person who has lived a life of isolation, where there is no hope of a stage two to relieve the harshness of stages three, four or five.
Allan Committie is the director, with stage design by Niall Griffin. With Viljoen and Matham they form a quartet to which theatre lovers can dance with joy.
Booking is now open for The Outlaw Muckridge via Webtickets, at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio for a limited season to 24 October, at 7pm. Patrons are encouraged to arrive an hour earlier to avoid delays and to wear masks as required by COVID-19 regulations. The age restriction is 18.