Review of David’s One Man Show
Actors, broadcasters and comedians are well-known for presenting their one-person shows on stage and television. Given their professional backgrounds, and their army of assistants and scriptwriters, they are in a position to turn in a performance which will hold an audience for the full length of their show. How much more of a challenge is faced by an “unknown” who attempts to hold an audience spellbound for well over an hour and a half just by talking about his job! And how much greater is that success when it is achieved solely by his own efforts and the sheer force of his stage presence.
Meet David Mitchell face to face and he is a quiet unassuming man, a person whom you pass in the street without noticing. But dress him in a Town Crier’s outfit, give him a handbell and put him under the spotlight on a stage, and he will give you a powerful demonstration of how to have an audience eating out of his hand.
So it was last Saturday at The Little Theatre in Chester, where David Mitchell gave his one-man show. David is the official Town Crier of Chester and, judging by the reception he received, there should be more many such shows.
He enthralled his audience with stories of his 17 years as the man in tights who “shouts” at visitors from The Cross in the centre of Chester, and he interspersed this with fascinating insights into the history of Town Crying.
He told us that before the age of printing and newspapers, the unamplified human voice was all that was available to spread news or proclaim law to the population at large. For example in 1671 it was proclaimed by the Crier that no houses within the city walls of Chester were to be roofed in thatch but should either be tiled or slated. This was after the great fire of London in 1666 and was an early form of the Building Regulations!
With humour, and not a little humility, he told us of some public appearances which did not go quite to plan. One such occasion was when a horse on which he was mounted for a wedding proclamation was completely unfazed by the bell being rung in his ear, but objected violently when he started his vocal presentation! He also had many examples of the strange questions asked of him by tourists, particularly Americans who often have strange notions of historic matters!
Chester’s “Man in Tights” has made many appearances on television and in films, including a production of “Moll Flanders” by Granada TV. He confided to us that his hopes for an Oscar were not quite realised: “If you put all my bits together, they come to less than 15 seconds – and only my mother recognised me!”
Give a man a colourful uniform and you have a recipe for a colourful presentation of his experiences. Couple that with an undoubted ability to present the foibles of human life in a humorous, intimate and self-deprecating way, and you have an evening of entertainment which is unusual and not to be missed. The audience acclaimed his performance as much as if he were one of those professionals – he will surely not remain “unknown” for long after this performance.
Brian Carter, Past President of the Association of Speakers Clubs