Review: Mayday Mayday, Bristol Old Vic

27 01 2012

Sending a shiver down spines was something that Tristan Sturrock, one of Bristol’s best and most versatile actors, did to chilling effect as a killer of babies in Coram Boy. A very physical performer on stage, it could have been very different for Sturrock, also shivering our timbers as Long John Silver in Treasure Island, who not long ago fell off a wall and landed on his head.

That fall in Padstow on May Day 2004 didn’t just send a shiver down Sturrock’s spine, it fractured it: a teardrop fracture of the C5 vertebrae for the doctors in the house. Sturrock faced potential paralysis and an end to his blossoming stage career.

He has said that writing a dramatised version of the accident and what happened next was not cathartic, but what we see in Mayday Mayday – originally seen at the Old Vic last year as Frankenspine, part of Ferment – could easily be interpreted as Sturrock’s way to come to terms with what happened to him that fateful May day.

Mary Shelley may not play quite so large a part in this one-man show anymore, but lying in his hospital bed, Sturrock relies completely on medical staff to piece him back together, so the comparison between him and Frankenstein’s monster still exists.

We are drawn into Mayday Mayday by Sturrock’s charm, playing a version of himself that is far removed from his most recent appearances on the Bristol stage. He looks at his audience knowingly, conspiratorially.

We are with him before the accident, when he falls and during his recovery, not standing next to him but there with him, wedged in that gap between wall and garage, and then every tentative step of the way as the process to fix his broken body begins.

That Mayday Mayday is based on a true story makes it all the more poignant, for there are moments here of real anguish as well as many lighter touches, the seriousness of his situation after he falls for example contrasted with a jovial paramedic, the climactic operating theatre scene soundtracked by opera and performed by a surgeon whose hands are dancing, and many other memorable moments.

Directed by Sturrock’s wife Katy Carmichael, the other half of Theatre Damfino and who features heavily in the background to this story, Mayday Mayday reminds us of the fragility of life with a lightness of touch. It is an engaging and compelling show from one of Bristol’s star performers. We should be thankful he is still with us to share his talent.

Mayday Mayday is at Bristol Old Vic until February 4. Click here for more info.



2 responses

3 02 2012
Mikhail Hajil Banyan

What a howler: The expresson is actually “M’aidez, M’aidez”. Its French.

7 02 2012
Jenine Kendall

It is a play on the fact that he fell and broke his neck on Mayday 2004, clearly you haven’t watched the play, maybe you should try doing that before you comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: