Tick tick tick tick tick tick.
The sound of a clock is often cited in creative writing manuals and classes as a wonderful way to add tension. A clock puts your characters under pressure, pushes the crucial moment to the front of your audience’s mind, is so familiar, so haunting.
The sound of a clock is nothing compared to the tension created by a Newton’s Cradle being the only sound on a stage with more props than actors.
The first sound that Edgar J Harris makes before launching into a monologue on detailing his life, his loves, his successes, his failures, is the simple ticking of a Newton’s Cradle which he smiles at enigmatically before glaring down at his audience in disdain.
Edgar J Harris is the man with no identity, the creation of local Liverpool playwright, Christopher Woodward, and an example of what can go wrong when you will do anything to have everything.
The one night show was inspired by George Bouverie Goddard’s painting The Struggle for Existence which like play is painful to look at and impossible to turn away from. In a world of wolves where the only chance of survival is to destroy, Edgar J Harris, always referred to in full, rants about self improvement in a world that hasn’t progressed and points out that with the right information you can have anything, and everything.
Money and materials are, for Edgar, the root of all happiness. He is better than his audience. He is performing a role. He is a display of money and success and, as Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage. He quotes the Bard’s famous monologue, taken so far away from the comedy it normally nestles in, and glances at his pocket watch, a gift from May, the love of his life, who ironically shares her name both the first month of the financial year and the beginning of summer.
May is gone and Edgar is in winter. Time is the great enemy of all men. His reflection is empty. The man he sees is not the man he is. What can he do about it now? Surrounded by so many beautiful things, but with no identity to call his own, it seems that Edgar is irrevocably lost.
The Man with No Identity is a haunting look at one man’s struggle for existence, painfully sad and darkly funny with an ending that hits you like a brick wall. Flawlessly performed by Bob Towers in the Casa, the show was on for one night only, but will be re-performed as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival on 23 June. Go see it and become lost within yourself.
Afterwards I was lucky enough to speak to Christopher Woodward about his debut show. Follow up questions were done online:
DMD: So this is your first play. Have you written anything else before like fiction or poetry?
CW: Never. Never wrote until last year, when I got the dream. So it came from a dream.
DMD: Came from a dream?
DMD: I read in the paperwork that it’s inspired by a painting.
CW: Yeah: Bouverie Goddard’s Struggle for Existence. It’s in the Walker Art Gallery. When I had the vision of writing the play I went. I was just wandering around the Walker Art Gallery; I like art and I came across the lovely Bouverie Goddard painting and it just spoke to me and that’s where I got the characteristics for the character.
CW: Yeah it’s amazing.
DMD: Yeah, I’ve done poems inspired by paintings. Are you familiar with An Experiment with an Air Pump? It’s another play inspired by a painting.
DMD: It’s a Newcastle play so it’s quite a nice link with the local play and the painting.
CW: Ah I see yeah.
DMD: Another parallel I noticed was Dorian Grey.
CW: Dorian Grey? Yeah, yeah, I like Dorian Grey. Oscar Wilde.
DMD: Yeah when Edgar said his reflection was empty it reminded me of him looking at the portrait.
CW: The guy who inspired me most to write was Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesmen.
DMD: View from the Bridge?
CW: View from the Bridge is fantastic.
DMD: I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’re reading Henrik Ibsen. A Doll’s House is one of my favourite plays. Do you prefer European or American theatre?
CW: I mainly like the American theatre like David Mamett, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams but Samuel Becket is fantastic also. Arthur Miller is my idol.
DMD: The Man with No Identity can be seen again at the Liverpool Fringe Festival. Is there anything else in the pipeline?
CW: Yes I’m currently working on my second play which is about the daily struggle of homelessness.
DMD: After seeing The Man with No Identity, I’m sure Christopher will do that justice!
Copyright, D M Day, 2017