Nov 1st 2019
Presented by Find the River Productions
Written by Lee Stewart
Directed By Andrew Barella
"There's Someone Coming Through" takes place in the space of one evening - before, during and after one of Neville Vaughan's clairvoyant stage shows. The venue is the ballroom of a rather downmarket hotel, and with less than half the tickets sold Neville (Michael Luke) is forced to come to terms with the fact that his career is not what it once was. As he prepares himself for the show his able assistant David (Mik Richardson) reveals snippets of the truth behind Neville's fall from grace - unpaid taxes, a costly divorce, and that unfortunate incident in a store cupboard...
But while he may point out Neville's faults for the benefit of the audience, David is also the grounding force for Neville, keeping the shows going, and massaging Neville's ego while simultaneously keeping him firmly grounded.
The show lends itself well to the intimate setting of Stage Two at Northern Stage - and the staging is very simply done. The hotel room is set out throughout, while Neville performs his own show in a spotlight front of stage, bringing him very close to the audience. As members of the cast are part of the audience this all works to make the whole thing feel very inclusive and we can squirm with embarrassment as Neville tries and fails to make the connections with the spirit world and members of the audience (as passed to him by David on a radio mic). Naturally things don't go to plan - neither the audience members nor the spirits are entirely co-operative. The situation get more and more out of control as the evening progresses leading to much hilarity for us as observers, as Neville struggles to keep the pretence going.
Michael Luke is excellent in the role of Neville Vaughan, slipping in and out of character from disgruntled has-been to smiling superstar as easily as he dons his white suit and wig. His performance in the spotlight smacks of the semi-desperation of a man teetering on the edge yet refusing to fall. It put me in mind of Les Dawson playing the piano - it takes skill to be so convincingly inept.
He is supported in the role by a very able cast, most of whom are scattered through the audience. I especially liked Jacob Hughes as the simultaneously obsequious yet pompous hotel manager and Dolores Poretta-Brown and Amy Herdman-Burns as the two grieving women desperate to make contact with their loved ones and both giving Neville a hard time for very different reasons!
This is a very funny play. Though based on the premise that mediums are not all they purport to be, the humour comes from Neville's incompetence and discomfort on stage, rather than from the characters seeking solace from the other side - their grief is never in the firing line. And just as you think Neville Vaughan is a complete charlatan Lee Stewart surprises us with a moment of openness and honesty - and a killer of a twist in the ending.
I hope "There's Someone Coming Through" comes back for a further run so that more people have the chance to experience the wonder that is Neville Vaughan.