Tron Theatre, Glasgow
When Tim Barlow was growing up in Blackpool, all he wanted was a girl on his arm and the aural poetry of Josef Locke’s tenor voice resounding in his ear. When he joined the army, he was made deaf by the sound of his own gun-fire, and had no idea that, prior to being posted overseas, one of those girls was telling him down a phone line how much she loved him. Three years on, and with an army wife and two small children on the go, exposure to a performance by Laurence Olivier was an epiphany, whereby Barlow recognised that his future lay, not on the battlefield, but onstage as an actor.
What follows in this auto-biographical monologue, performed by the author himself in Tom Morris and Toby Sedgwick’s loose-knit production, is a candid expose of Barlow’s struggle to be seen and heard in a system geared towards physical perfection at every level. Framed by a structural conceit that sees Barlow’s yarn unravel as he waits for his three thousandth audition almost 40 years after his voluntary de-mob, as a story it’s irresistibly life-affirming, even as it squares up to Barlow’s failings as a father and husband in favour of his ambition. As a theatrical routine, however, it never fully engages, and, for all its honesty, becomes one more strung-together series of struggling actor’s anecdotes.
Beaming with more life than most half his age, in another life Barlow would be playing the cheekie-chappie in the end of the pier vaudeville shows he grew up with. With better knitted-together material, he might make it yet.
The Herald, February 26th 2007