Network Tales After Dark / Written by Tom Menary
Restless Theatre Company
7th June 2017
“You see, but you do not observe”
There’s always an air of mystery surrounding the strangers we come across on public transport. Everyone’s guilty of making up names and stories for them, whether they be based on their most prominent features, or by overhearing glimpses of conversations. All aboard Network Tales, where our inquisitive guide (known as the Train Conductor, played by Richard Knox) has been imagining the hidden lives of his passengers for the past 15 years – while bottling up his own story.
Set during a train ride through the South West of England, we meet an array of characters from all walks of life: a phone-addicted teenager, experienced traveller, loved-up couple, and lads on a drunken bender, to name but a few. But past these stereotypes lie tales that give each character depth, and some truly heartfelt moments. Amazingly, they are all portrayed by just five playful, talented actors.
The key message behind Network Tales is that you never know what you can uncover, just by engaging to new people. With that in mind, the audience isn’t left on the sidelines to just watch the performance; instead we become part of the ensemble. Everyone is presented with a ticket at the start of the show, stating the ‘train stops’ in which we embark and disembark onto the stage. This was a creative way to give us a closer, connected look into the characters, as they go on their literal (and metaphorical) journeys.
At times Network Tales could have done with a boost, so some scenes surprisingly veer off the rails. Using a lost property box full of random props, the actors hop into some crazy (and even saucy) antics. These unpredictable moments certainly livened up the production – sometimes they paid off with cheeky, cackling laughter. Other times were met with confusion, not knowing in which direction the show was going to carry on – especially towards the finale. The stand-out storyline has to be the mystery of Mr Australia (Louis Brzozka) – is he a cunning murderer, or man with a sad past?
Well, it’s the end of the line with my review, and questionable train puns. Overall, Network Tales is a wildly imaginative and character-driven adventure that provides an entertaining 90 minute experience. You’ll never look at a mundane commute in the same way again!
*** – 3 Stars