Originally published on Public Reviews
Some of my personal highlights from 2015 have been the one person show. Grounded and Fleabag were shows that in their own way tackled modern society with humour, vibrancy and poetic eloquence. Both were thrilling examples that small in scale is not necessarily small in ideas. Unfortunately Me, Bill Nighy & The Goblin, cracking title aside, features the worst excesses of the form, this hybrid stand-up theatre piece feeling so slight that one wonders if writer/performer Nalika de Silva wants to question anything at all or is just using this show as a chance for exposure.
It meanders around a presumably autobiographical tale that will raise the odd chuckle for those of us with our acting degrees and ambitions to conquer the world, but who find that the Olivier and Oscar may need to wait awhile. So, de Silva travels from her home in Wakefield to train at drama school and then finds her dreams of stardom need to be supplemented by jobs at the local Chinese takeaway and an opticians with the odd awkward Bollywood audition keeping her hopeful. Her random meetings with that tall, cultivated actor who glides his way like some 60s Truffaut protagonist must mean something though, right?
But though de Silva has a warm charm and would be cracking company in the pub, the show itself never really gathers momentum; it’s hard ultimately to give two hoots, this is first world problems laid bare. If the tale was supplemented by heady laughs that would have us rolling in the aisles this would be less of a problem. But the humour is cosy and gentle, no different to that we share every night with friends and loved ones. For a comedy show we need a little more than that. She is a reasonably solid mimic, taking on the characteristics of a number of characters who flit through her life, from her Turkish gangsta wannabe, the ra-ra gap year student, her Mum and Dad, but unfortunately her impression of the only recognisable character, that of Nighy himself, is not even in the right ballpark. There is some fun little multimedia work, unexpected in the normally rough and ready Wardrobe and a nice little payoff at the end, but the whole thing could do with a proper script edit.
At just forty minutes there is plenty of space, even within strict festival guidelines, to delve deeper into her experiences. You feel there is a voice there, but every interesting tangent she hits, her parents’ reaction to her choice to be an actress, for example, is barely touched on. Maybe the decision not to dwell here is conscious, but it would give something more personal. Creative work demands blood and tears, at the moment it’s playing it safe and is in danger of becoming vacuous as a result.