Review: The Victorian in the Wall

We all bloody love the Victorians, especially when they’ve been trapped in a wall for a century and a half. Now their antiquity sheds light on the modern human condition. reviews


Director: Will Adamsdale / Lyndsey Turner
Writer: Will Adamsdale
Venue: Royal Exchange, Manchester
Dates: 12-13th April (On at 11th May – 8th June at Royal Court Theatre)
Rating: ★★★★☆

We bloody love Victorians. An apothecary mixture of their adorable apparent sexual repression and cute little gradually-decaying fervent religiosity always does a number on us. Particularly their simply adorable, deeply conflicted, novels and poems. Aww.

I have read so many Victorian novels that it’s started to shape my reality (by Jove). There’s even a man who lives in our attic, and due to Victorian convention that servants’ quarters are usually on the third floor, I sometimes forget he’s not our servant and actually my brother. He is becoming a little annoyed by my unrelenting demands for him to cook me negus and turtle-soup.

Which is why I sympathise enormously with artwork that toys with the very real presence of the Victorian era in the modern world. And which is why I bloody loved ‘The Victorian In The Wall’, a four-man show currently touring the country. Even if it’s the strangest thing to happen to theatre since that sinful witch Ellen Terry started waving that cursed transgressive umbrella of hers all over stage.

A frustrated writer lives in a working-class London area. He wants to be a master novelist but he’s trapped thinking about the hamartia of tortoises in CBeebies shows. He adores his girlfriend but she’s fed up with him. A builder is coming to knock-through the dining room and kitchen to create a more multi-purpose space whilst she’s out doing the kind of important stuff he never does. She decides she will leave him if he does not somehow excel at the task of letting the builder in.

He excels. They find a bonafide Victorian man in the wall who was prevented from going to the afterlife due to wi-fi interference. He tells the writer a tragic, authentic story.

Every device of magical realism is then deployed and that faint little crevice between reality and fiction isn’t something you find yourself caring about.

Fast-paced and quirky musical numbers about things like compost bins quickly change to social commentary, provided so fast you barely recognise it. The three supporting actors rush round and provide the sound effects themselves. Their vocal chords rupture against a neatly-positioned escritoire as they imitate everything from the theme tune of The Wire and explosions whilst they’re supposed to be acting.

The humour is capital. The gags play on the idea that all the world, all possible epochs and nations, is condensed conveniently into the stage. “Would you like some masala chai?”, a Victorian asks a modern African, to which he responds with, “Would I ever.’ In short, it is the kind of deeply amusing low-budget bafflement the rest of the play brings you to be accustomed to.

‘The Victorian in the Wall’ is a fun little production that is deeply suggestive of some inexplicable feeling that takes place in the modern human condition. It is wonderfully and snappily delivered and somehow leaves you with the experience of having witnessed something truly cathartic.

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