One man stares down several abysses
This article is from 2010.
Ezra LeBank is one of those people who it might genuinely be pretty entertaining to watch reading a phonebook: his voice is musical, finely-timbred, and he uses it like an instrument, and his physicality is awesomely controlled: muscles don’t move on his face unless to further the effect of his words. Fortunately the Yellow Pages can wait for now as he’s written Extinguish, an utterly fresh, theatrical and philosophical reinterpretation of our tired old human fascination with death.
This is a one-man show in the truest sense: LeBank hands out programmes, tears the tickets, and sits in the audience making gentle conversation until it’s time for the single lamp – the only technical requirement – to go on (he does that, too). What follows feels freeform, but the slickness of the performance – performances, in fact, 27 of them – is testament to the craft and skill involved.
Extinguish dances in and out of the consciousness of a series of characters, recounting their own deaths, brushing up against some for a few minutes and some for only a couple of lines, but all of them gorgeously written and realised. There’s a teenager with learning difficulties, a US sniper in Baghdad, a tortured painter, all of them entirely distinct from each other without costume or lighting change.
In sections entitled ‘The Politics’, ‘The Struggle’ and ‘The Poetry’, he rubs us up against the death myths of various cultures and religions and looks at emotional and artistic responses to death, weaving in the ridiculously varied forms of tai chi, slam poetry and dance. And yet, despite the scope and weighty subject matter, this is neither portentuous nor pretentious, just honest, lyrical, intelligent theatre.
Extinguish was, at time of review, playing to single-figure audiences. It deserves better, and you deserve to see it.
the Space on the Mile @ Jury’s Inn, 0845 508 8387, until 28 Aug (not 22), 4pm, £7(£5).