Mayfest Review 2010: Kings of England by Saini Manninen

Editors Note: This review is part of theatrebristol.net’s second open Mayfest Audience Reviews Project, and the opinions contained are soley those of the author and not those of Theatre Bristol as an organisation, nor should they be attributed as such. For more information about the reviews project contact

I should call my dad. I should call my dad and find out what he’s life been like so far. I should get to know my dad better. This is what goes through my mind as I watch Simon Bowes on stage with his dad, Peter.

The performance is an attempt, as Simon tells us in the programme notes, to ‘give his father something back, or to show him what he has left’. In 1958 Peter jumped down and into the sea from the rocks. A photograph captured his fall. In 2001 he fell again, this time while cycling, and for an hour forgot who or where he was. Ever since suffering this transient ischemic attack, he has been forgetful.  As Simon says, ‘Little is known since little is remembered’. During the performance we see old photos of Peter, we see his first fall, we hear snippets from his life, we see his second fall enacted with the help of a wooden bicycle, all narrated by Simon, often illustrated by pictures on an overhead projector operated by Simon’s mum.

The text spoken by Simon is beautiful as it tries to make sense of time; time lived and time theorised. Weaving together philosophy and a story of the embodied time of a lived life, it grapples with questions such as how to invent what cannot be remembered and how to get better with age. The mystery of time’s being is made a bit more understandable when set alongside one life. And as I listen to Simon talk so warmly about his dad’s life I can’t help thinking that he knows an awful lot about it. Or does he? Whose voice is this anyway, narrating a life so succinctly? Whose life is this? If little is known since little is remembered, how much has been made up?

The performance has a kind of amateur aesthetic and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It has the feel of being around embarrassing parents; mum forgets to put a new slide on the OP and dad has to pause his song to tell mum to hold the piece of paper with the lyrics on a bit nearer to him. And yet, it also has a wonderful warmth about it, the kind you get when you’re old enough to appreciate what your parents are. To appreciate this brief moment together on stage. It’s a family business. They make a good pair, those two. Simon’s nervous energy is balanced by Peter’s quiet and subtle charisma.

This truly heart-felt performance creeps up on you. And before you know it, it has ended. This is how time falls. Listening to Peter’s last, all too short, song I wish I knew how to break time’s fall so I could stay here a bit longer. One is left thinking of one’s own family, of the lines and swirls of time played out between parents and their children. And their children. And so on. I should call my dad.

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