Whistle (4 stars)

This article is from 2011


Extraordinary true-life tale

It’s easiest to just come out and say it: when Martin Figura was nine, his father killed his mother. Almost 50 years later, Martin’s on stage in front of us, still overwhelmed at times, but working through things; almost as a by-product, it seems, he’s created this extraordinary piece of theatre.

Based around Figura’s award-winning 2010 poetry cycle, Whistle is deceptively simple: one man on stage, performing an extended narrative poem. To his left, a projector rotates through faded family snapshots. To his right there’s an old Box Brownie camera, spot-lit and unreferred to, the conduit for recording this family’s life. Words and pictures: that’s all. The myths we make of our own histories.

Figura reaches back into the past, presents aspirational Northern English life in the 1960s using language so skilful and understated you taste what it was like without realising that’s what he’s done to you. He probes his parents’ psychologies with tenderness and humour: there’s still pain there, but Whistle isn’t about retribution, hurling blame or grief-struck indulgence. What it represents is an exceptional act of empathy.

Zoo, 662 6892, until 29 Aug (not 15, 25), 1.45pm, £7.50 (£5).


  • 4 stars

When Martin Figura was nine years old, his father killed his mother. Whistle is a multimedia depiction of a post-war British childhood using poetry, family photographs and striking visuals. Figura explores themes of identity, forgiveness, loss, adoption and family with insight and gentle humour, to tell a unique…

Elsewhere on the web