It is quite a challenge to embark on a one man show even for a seasoned performer. All the more so for one so recently out of drama school aiming to make his mark on the theatrical world. From the moment Louis Hill appears, pacing nervously and distractedly across the minimalist, intimate space before the lights go up on Love & Tigers, he makes a mesmerising presence and goes on to hold the audience’s attention throughout the emotionally intense one act production.
The premise of Love & Tigers is simple – a young man giving an account of growing up navigating family, relationships, love and grief. In the hands of Hill, as both writer and sole performer however, it comes across as much more than that. His obvious affinity with language gives the monologue something of a poetic quality as the story unfolds to reveal elements of light and shade side by side, as so often happens in everyday life. The explanation for the rather incongruous sounding title is tinged with both humour and pathos as is his account of the circumstances surrounding the catastrophic event which forms the basis of the whole show. Subtle writing also hints at, but never overstates, the impact of the behaviour of the young man’s parents on his formative years.
Not only does Hill demonstrate the ability to paint pictures with words, his expressive performance also makes those scenarios come alive on stage. He exudes pride and tender brotherly love when the young man recounts being at the birth of his sister in place of his absent father. He epitomises blind obsession when glimpsing the unattainable object of his teenage desire on the other side of a busy street. He visibly palls and freezes as he recalls, “I didn’t stop or look or listen.”
Under the direction of another newcomer, Christopher Walthorne, Love and Tigers becomes a more rounded piece of theatre to emphasise that Hill is not simply delivering a monologue or doing a stand-up comedy routine. He uses the blank canvas of the performance space well to denote a changing sense of place and atmosphere with no elaborate scenery or props. At the end, the young man’s encounter with the legendary ‘tiger’ down a London sidestreet is lodged firmly in our heads and so, indeed is the ‘Bee’.
Love & Tigers is a remarkable debut from its two young creators and credit has to be given to the Camden Fringe for giving them the opportunity to display their talents. While there are still some raw edges to be smoothed out, it wouldn’t be surprising if in due course, Hill’s writing and performing finds itself on an even bigger stage from which to leave the audience buzzing.