Review by Alan Jozwiak of Neverwhere: Know Theatre
The holiday season is a time when Cincinnati theatres tend to produce short holiday plays that act as light theatrical bon-bons.
Not so with Know Theatre.
In a bold move, Know Theatre is producing Neverwhere, a sprawling epic stage adaptation of the Neil Gaiman BBC television mini-series that depicts the world of London Below, the area below the London that we know where there are rat-speakers, wayward angels, and floating markets. Adaptor Robert Kauzlaric has skillfully created the vast world of London Below, capturing the vastness of the Gaiman’s imaginative world.
Neal Gaiman is best known for his Sandman comic book series, as well young adult books such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book. Gaiman likes to create dark worlds where good fights against evil against impossible odds. In Neverwhere, Gaiman uses his dark talents to craft a tale that is essentially a coming of age story for the play’s main character Richard Mayhew (Rory Sheridan).
The play starts out with Mayhew living a successful life as a young businessman. Mayhew’s life is turned upside down when he sees Door (Ernaisja Curry), lying unconscious in one of the London underground subway tunnels. Taking Door back to his apartment, Mayhew is confronted by Mr. Croup (Sean P. Mette) and Mr. Vandemar (Dylan Shelton), two assassins who have come to complete their job of killing Door. What happens next is a vast and epic tale better left to be savored on stage than paraphrased in this review.
Co-directors Andrew J. Hungerford (Know’s Producing Artistic Director) and Dan R. Winters (Know’s resident photographer) have assembled a strong cast and have skillfully led them through the multiplicity of scenes that occur throughout Neverwhere. It was tour-de-force directing to make all the elements hang together and I applaud their efforts at tackling this challenging work.
Acting in this production was strong, led by Rory Sheridan as Richard Mayhew. Sheridan goes through a large transformation in this play, turning from businessman to warrior, and he plays each stage of that transformation exceptionally well. Sheridan was believable as Mayhew and was able to add in comic touches when called for in the script.
Speaking of comic touches, Sean P. Mette and Dylan Shelton played the assassins Messrs. Croup and Vandemar to perfection. The roles, while eerily creepy and menacing, also have places for humor and both Mette and Shelton were able to deliver creepy and comedic equally well. They almost acted as a deranged Laurel and Hardy comedy duo willing to kill at the slightest provocation.
Ernaisja Curry as Door and Jeremy Dubin as Marquis de Carabas were also strong. Curry plays Door as a valiant, but vulnerable woman who is able to open doorways to anywhere she wishes. She has nicely paired with Sheridan’s Mayhew and the two have a good chemistry onstage. Similarly, Dubin’s Marquis was full bombast, belligerence, and brilliance, a wonderful character acted by an equally wonderful actor.
Scenic Designer Sarah Beth Hall creates a structural steel outline of the London subway system that transforms itself to any number of different ways within the play. There was great ingenuity in how some of the stage elements moved and it was delightful seeing what would happen next with the stage.
Perhaps this play is a perfect holiday offering by Know because this is a play that keeps on giving. It runs three hours long, so this is not an evening of theatre for someone wanting a light theatrical bon-bon. However, this is one of the better productions that I’ve seen at Know over the last few years, so it is must-see for anyone serious about theatre.
Neverwhere runs until December 17, with performances running Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 pm, with Sunday matinees at 3 pm. For ticket information, please visit Know Theatre’s website http://knowtheatre.com/season-20/neverwhere