Martin Dockery: Bursting Into Flames [FringeTIX]
Martin Dockery @ The Cupola
7:00pm, Fri 17 Feb 2012
Martin Dockery’s Wanderlust was a highlight of 2011 for me, so it took very little persuasion for me to schedule his new performance in nice and early. Unfortunately, only seven other people thought likewise – which must be demoralising, especially when The Cupola (and The Spare Room, and The Campanile) are buried in the most secluded corner of The Garden – and with no walk-up ticket sales (although there’s a Garden Box Office nearby).
The Cupola is a much wider venue than The Spare Room last year, so Dockery looks a little lonely as he walks onstage and sits on his chair, the sole prop. But then he leaps into action, his rapid-fire style instantly familiar. But something struck me about his performance that I hadn’t noticed last year: there’s a wonderful sense of theatre in his hand movements, with elaborate gestures helping create the world around him.
And, in the first line, he tells us that he’s in Heaven. His descriptions are, as you’d expect from Wanderlust, detailed and evocative; everything is great all the time, and heaven-dwellers seem to spend most of their time throwing parties where the guests always bring bottle of wine and your friends are always amazingly talented and everything is… well, heavenly. Early on, he briefly mentions the presence of Hell – and, if anything, that section of the monologue is even more detailed: Dockery’s Hell is a punishing and painful place.
Having established the presence of Hell, we return to Dockery’s Heaven – where, quite against the norm, he gets married to a woman with an intense desire for failure (with which she ironically succeeds). The tales that surround her – with her terrible hang-gliding, and her unintentionally riotous dinosaur standup material – are just fantastic; so too are the stories (the broken heart, the toke-to-the-moon) surrounding how the Heaven-dwelling friends actually died, how they came to be in Heaven, that form the ascension in the story. And then there’s a really wonderfully managed twist in the tail… it all just works.
But – and it really shames me to write this – there was a point in the show where Dockery changed scenes, shifting the monologue to a new location. A phone started ringing, softly, subtly: that’s odd, I thought, he’d not used any other backing soundtracks. It was only after about six rings that I realised that it was my phone, inadvertently knocked off silent mode; rustle-shuffle-rustle and the noise had gone, but the shame still remains. I had become one of those people I hated.
But it didn’t seem to knock Dockery off his game – he was in the same wonderful form that we’d discovered last year. Sure, there’s the odd word mix-up, but his delivery is so fast-paced that you almost don’t have time to dwell on it. And besides, it’s the slight variations in speed, the very occasional pause, and – most importantly – the intensity that delivers his message.
But… eight people. C’mon, really? Especially when one of them was a phone-ringing arsehole. Dockery deserves much bigger audiences than that, because – even at this early stage – Bursting Into Flames is one of the funniest, most intense, beautifully-delivered pieces of the year.