Adapted from the novel by Albert Camus. Bare Witness Theatre Company. Ralph Wilson Theatre. Gorman House. Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre. December 8 – 19. 2021. Bookings: 61820000 or email@example.com
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Christopher Samuel Carroll’s performance of Meursault, the central character in Albert Camus’ novella The Stranger is nothing short of remarkable. Carroll has established himself as an accomplished exponent of the one man performance. Apart from his amazing ability to transport an audience into Camus’ probing insight into the absurdities and complexities of human nature, Carroll’s nuanced investigation of his protagonist’s natural acceptance of life’s experience is both compelling and inviting deeper analysis. Carroll is the consummate storyteller, devoid of all artifice.
A modern day psychiatrist may regard Meursault as a man on the spectrum, indifferent at times to circumstances around him and incomprehensible to a society steeped in judgement. From the outset, he appears incapable of grief at his mother’s death. He exists in the here and now, unimpeded by convention. He is willing to marry Marie, but has little regard for the expectations or consequences of marriage. Death holds no mystery and life no surprises. Meursault is Rousseau’s Noble Savage whose innate goodness is corrupted and his freedom removed by society’s laws when he transgresses the bounds of accepted behavIour. Carroll’s brilliance as an actor is to arouse his audience’s sympathy for the naïve Meursault. It is an empathy not shared by the characters in Camus’ story who regard Meursault as guilty of murder under the law . Camus offers a warning and a plea to a society under the tyranny of Nazi occupation to embrace the philosophical and psychological ideals of empathy and compassion.
In an epic two hour tour de force, Carroll’s command of his audience on two sides of the stage is absolute. Even a short interruption and delay caused by an unexpected Illness of an audience member did little to break the flow or the engagement of an audience riveted to Carroll’s delivery. Carroll wisely plays Meursault as an innocent. Storyteller and character merge in a union of beautifully timed and honestly portrayed narrative. Carroll’s clear and expressive vocal delivery moves easily between Meursault the narrator, Meursault the character and the story’s main characters. With a simple gesture and a change of voice Carroll instantly creates the conflicting relationship between the old man Salamano and his dog or the pimp Raymond and his abused Arab mistress or Meursault’s frustrated lawyer and Meursault in the dock. In a final rant Carroll depicts a chaplain infuriated by a man who readily accepts his fate as the natural state of life. Camus’ characters are vividly and immediately brought to life by a master storyteller who expertly holds his audience in the palm of his hand as he leads them through Camus’ paradoxical commentary on the absurdity of human nature.
No programme was provided for the performance, so that I can only commend the lighting design and production team for engaging the audience in the intimate space of the Ralph Wilson Theatre and recommend that a programme be made available so that audiences can fully appreciate the collaborative nature of the production. Carroll is the master of his craft, physically expressive, vocally dynamic and totally engaging. His performance of Meursault the outsider is a master class in adaptation of Camus’ novella and Carroll’s commanding performance of a two hour monologue. His interpretation and performance of The Stranger is not to be missed by theatre lovers and theatre students alike.