In a cafe on New Cross Road, The Man with the Flower in his Mouth begins unassumingly. Samuel Collings as The Man enters from the street, and Liana Weafer, who sits reading at a table, reveals herself as the play’s other character, The Traveller. The visibility of the outside has an odd effect on this short Pirandello play: somehow the surreal becomes real, and these two peculiar characters become knowable.
As The Man, Collings is endearingly awkward and slyly sweet. In his ill-fitting velvet jacket and pockets full 0f bric-a-brac, he’s a cross between a Beckettian tramp and an elegant clown. The power of his imaginative detail is transfixing and bewildering; as he describes the particular smell of people’s houses, it’s hard to envisage that he himself could live in a house.
Although The Man is far more immediately strange to us, The Traveller gradually reveals to us her own penchant for the weird and wonderful. She’s surprisingly and interestingly receptive to The Man’s tales, and quietly engaged with absolutely everything he says. Weafer is both understated and intense, and adeptly inhabits this hard-to-place role. The action eventually takes on a distressing yet predictable macabre tone: The Man’s ‘flower’ is revealed to be a burdeonsome gift, and casts a shadow over the rest of the drama.
The London Particular is the perfect setting for this ephemeral play, and grants us fleeting access to this other, yet oddly recognisable world.