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Diane de Beer
It’s like switching from doubles to singles in tennis, says actor James Cuningham about his first solo outing which opens at the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square tonight for a short run until September 15.
Sunday Morning is a one-man comedy written by Nick Warren and directed by Jenine Collocott, a husband and wife team. But these three have collaborated before, especially with corporate functions, so it was great to explore much more widely.
“You’re not playing by the same rules when you do solo theatre,” says Cuningham. But what he loved was working with Warren and Collocott, because the script seemed to offer so much elasticity.
“It seemed that, without really changing much, as if there was an in-built flexibility,” he says.
But that’s also part of the solo experience. The audience becomes a huge part of the staging. “It’s as if we’re having a conversation and each night it changes.”
Being alone is one of the difficulties of solo performances and it has been a challenge, but one that Cuningham is excited to experience. Previously he had always worked extremely collaboratively and been very aware of the complicity of performance.
Now it was him alone out there. “It was completely terrifying to start with,” he says. But Cuningham is one of those performers who will conquer his obstacles. It’s part of his journey and we are the ones who benefit.
What makes ‘Sunday Morning’ such a blast is the story and the way it comes at you with unexpected twists and turns. Mat (Cuningham) is a successful photographer who has his life exactly how he likes it – ordered, neat and beautifully composed – until the day his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant.
In an attempt to process this disturbing information he goes out for a run. Straying from his regular route, he ventures into a strange part of the city where he makes a gruesome discovery that changes everything.
Those are just the bare facts and as you can detect, the story can go anywhere. And then delightfully, with this trio’s skill, it goes where you least expect. It’s charming, sometimes chilling, makes you smile, but will also get you thinking.
When Cuningham first read the script he was slightly wary of its lyricism. “Nick comes from Wales originally and I think that’s where his language is rooted,” he says. While he first argued that it might be too much, it is the poetry that both he and the audience now grab hold of. “That was the one thing Nick insisted on. That we not remove the poetic quality,” says Cuningham, and he now concedes freely that the playwright knew best.
He also loved the fact that the director, married to the playwright, knows the writing well, which allowed them all to play and stretch the story as much as they possibly could.
“We are already talking about future projects,” says the actor, even though he knows that this one has a long road to travel still.
“It’s been a real challenge,” he says and those who have already seen ‘Sunday Morning’ will tell you that Cuningham and his cohorts have passed with flying colours.
Don’t miss it. It’s contemporary theatre at its best.