Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Early Grave Fashionably Late. 

Written and performed by Christopher Samuel Carroll. Bare Witness Theatre Company. Smith’s Alternative. Civic. Tuesday December 20 – Thursday December 22 2017 at 8 p.m.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins 

Christopher Samuel Carroll as Bennett Cooper Sullivan in Early Grave Fashionably Late
It takes courage, skill and talent, not to mention an engrossing story to hold an audience in the palm of your hand, while drums pound out their thundering beat next door and the noise of revellers in the street outside sneaks its way through Smith’s Alternative's doors. Christopher Samuel Carroll is an Irish actor, writer and theatre-maker, currently based in Canberra,  after having trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College and the prestigious Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Early Grave Fashionably Late, his original one man show currently being performed at Smith's Alternative  comes to Canberra direct from a successful season in Melbourne lends. Carroll's performance lends testament to his training credentials. Carroll’s stage presence is impressive, his diction precise and engaging, his movement supple and expressive and his demeanour effortlessly and stylishly peoples the small Smith's Alternative's stage with eccentric and entertaining characters.
Central to the tale is Bennett Cooper Sullivan, cartographer, adventurer, raconteur, and the Victorian storyteller of strange and mysterious tales. We learn of his  bravado in the face of of H Rider Haggard style accounts of perilous adventures from Africa to Peru to the Antarctic.  Carroll transports us from the exotic adventures of the Victorian age to the posturing extravagance of privileged society at Lady Wallis’s Ball and into a park, where a strange and apparently deadly event takes our noble adventurer turned detective on the chase to discover the truth behind a puzzling disappearance, more vexing than an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery. Mixing fact with fiction in this original and intriguing tale, Sullivan leads us into the very heart of the Irish political system and the seedy world of adultery, betrayal and sinister intent. Woven into this sleuth’s pursuit of a missing body in a park, Carroll laces his story with historical personages such as the ruthless leader of the Irish Political Party, Charles Stuart Parnell and the enigmatic Oscar Wilde, a supposed contemporary of Bennett Sullivan at Dublin University.  Carroll is a deft caricaturist, capturing gesture and manner in a single glance, a swift and wry turn of phrase,  or a simple twist and turn of posture.
 Early Grave Fashionably Late exudes the familiar air of its period. Carroll’s performance unfolds with the assured intent of the professional. Cleverly conceived, cloaked in the nostalgic charm of its period and tinged with wry mockery, Sullivan’s Victorian detective tale, while not necessarily as dark as Dickens, witty as Wilde, horrific as Poe or as complex as Conan-Doyle, does demonstrate a fresh originality, made the more entertaining by Carroll’s performance.  The full house at Smith’s Alternative applauded enthusiastically as Carroll took his bow. His one man show of fifty minutes has proven so popular that Early Grave Fashionably Late will be extended until Thursday December 22nd.
The play, while conservative in its content, provides an excellent showcase for Carroll’s obvious talent. It would be foolish to judge his versatility on a show that is an unabashed homage to Victorian adventure tales and detective fiction. Carroll already teases the imagination with his next project, an original one man Butoh interpretation of Paradise Lost, which will play at the Belconnen Arts Centre, the Fringe World Festival in Perth and the Adelaide Fringe Festival in  February  next year.
I can’t wait for this asset to the Canberra acting fraternity to relinquish his stylishly cut nineteenth century beard and moustache and well cut suit and vest for the bizarre and unconventional performance style of Butoh. Early Grave Fashionably Late introduces us to a performer of consummate skill. Paradise Lost will be a true test of Carroll’s mettle, and like Early Grave Fashionably Late, a performance not to be missed.

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