Theatre Review: Andy Curtis leaves his mark

By Simon Mallett

A 100-minute trip taking you to Holland, London and China, from 1986 all the way back to when Jesus walked the Earth, sounds like quite a voyage. Unbelievable as it sounds, this is the journey actor Andy Curtis leads audiences on in One Yellow Rabbit’s presentation of Underneath the Lintel.

Curtis plays a Dutch librarian on a mission to find the individual who returned a book 113 years late through the overnight drop slot. With Curtis out to slap the hefty fine upon the guilty party, audiences will not be able to resist his spell-binding performance.

His mission leads the librarian on a trip around the world and even through time, following a strange collection of clues taking him in a number of unexpected directions. In the process, the nameless librarian is faced with larger life questions about what mark we leave behind and how we will be remembered. In many ways, Underneath the Lintel is an epic tale, which may surprise audiences due to Curtis’ one-man performance.

But with his natural performing talent, Curtis is able to take audiences on a fascinating voyage. His librarian enters the theatre as though he has rented the space for an evening to present the evidence regarding the irresponsible book borrower. This context allows him to interact and play with audience members throughout the show, creating an intimate performance setting. On one particular evening, an audience member making a mid-show run to the bathroom is informed by Curtis they cannot not wait for his return. Another audience member’s instinctual response of “Oh God!” at one moment in the play is echoed by Curtis, responding, “Oh God is right!” This relaxed interaction on the part of Curtis, fully immersed in his character, adds a great deal of humour and believability to the performance and fits the play perfectly.

It really is Curtis’ performance, layered and precise, that makes the show. He balances humour with deep introspection, eliciting empathy from the audience–You cannot help but associate with this everyman librarian. Curtis clearly keeps with the One Yellow Rabbit performance mantra of economy, precision and relaxation on stage, and here it creates strong results. The production elements are, for the most part, kept in balance with the style of the show, though the cluttered set could have been used more effectively. As of now, it provides little more than a backdrop in front of which Curtis plays out his librarian’s tale, rather than an immersive environment he’d be able to play and explore within.

Underneath the Lintel presents a fascinating story exploring the world and its history, while also posing some very complicated questions of life that resonate, regardless if you have a library card. With Curtis’ dedicated performance on hand to serve as the tour guide, this is one trip you don’t want to miss.

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