Arriving at the Djanogly Theatre on the 28th March, I was decidedly dubious about the concept of a one man performance of the works of Shakespeare. However, putting aside my preconceived prejudice, I sought to embrace this niche theatrical experience, and receive it enthusiastically, which I most certainly did. ‘Seven Ages‘ was a colourful exploration of the stages of life through the medium of costume and disguise, expertly performed and improvised by Kevin Tomlinson, with the assistance of Abi Hood.
This highly ambitious enterprise was set up against a sparse backdrop, comprised of little more than a rack of clothes, three chairs and a table displaying an array of masks and wigs. By adapting the monologue from ‘As You Like It’, Tomlinson presented personal experiences from the stages of his life, in a thoroughly humorous and captivating way. The transitions between the stages of life particularly were a highlight of comedy and innovation. Equally though, Tomlinson’s poignant depiction of second childhood as a stage of oblivion was so sensitively and sympathetically portrayed, that it would have inspired pathos even in the most hardened theatre goer. Throughout, the actor’s spontaneous style endeavoured to present life not in a glossy idealised way, but one to which we can all relate.
‘Seven Ages’ was a brave venture that in fact rested heavily on the receptivity of the audience. Whilst it represented a whistle stop tour through the trials and tribulations of Thomlinson’s life, song lyrics suggested by the audience were intermittently read and skilfully worked into each scene of the play, sustaining the experience of shared participation, and a sense of universality.
The play as a novel exploration of one of Shakespeare’s most profound monologues did not fail to impress, even though the individual stages are depicted with varying degrees of success. Tomlinson’s enthusiasm certainly made up for any stale moments, his greatest strength being his charismatic stage presence. Tribute should be paid to Tomlinson for creating what was a fantastically original experience, abundant with hilarity and charm.