The Man

by James Graham

25 May – 19 June 2010

“This is my first tax return. Thank you…erm for offering to… for helping. I realise it’s a bit weird. It’s just. This is…it’s the only way I can think to make it better. The only way I can think to do it. With other people. Like this.”

The World Premiere of a new play from award-winning Finborough Playwright-in-Residence James Graham

The centrepiece of Vibrant 2010 – An Anniversary Festival of Finborough Playwrights

Award-winning Playwright-in-Residence James Graham reunites with former Finborough Theatre Associate Director Kate Wasserberg to present a blackly comic and uniquely interactive storytelling event – a different actor, telling a story in a different order, selected at random, every single night.

Tax is really, really taxing for Ben Edwards. Self Employed. And afraid…

And now he must face his dreaded self assessment form, with every receipt evoking the good times and the bad – memories of things gone wrong, gone right, the journeys he’s been on, the relationships that have begun and ended and the people he has lost…

With each receipt drawn out at random, Ben begins to stitch together the patchwork quilt that was the Tax Year 2009/2010 – a year that was both hilarious and tragic, all mixed up in one shoe box of receipts.

“They’re a record of what we buy? Aren’t they? And what we buy says, you know, a lot about, you know, a lot about … who we are. What we…erm. Value. What we need.”

The Man is performed by a changing team of actors. Please see our website, Facebook and Twitter for the latest casting information.

First tried out as a reading in last year’s Vibrant! A Festival of Finborough Playwrights when it was performed by the playwright himself, The Man is part of Vibrant 2010 – An Anniversary Festival of Finborough Playwrights, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Finborough Theatre with thirty new works for the stage by thirty UK and international playwrights, discovered, developed or championed by the Finborough Theatre, all performed in four weeks, and featuring many premieres of brand new plays by some of the well-known playwrights who began their careers at the Finborough Theatre.

Casting Schedule For The Man

WEEK ONE – 26 May-30 May 2010
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Lizzy Watts
Thursday, 27 May 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Lizzy Watts
Friday, 28 May 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Saturday, 29 May 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Sunday, 30 May 2010 (3.00pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts

WEEK TWO – 1 June-6 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Wednesday, 2 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Leander Deeny / Stephanie Thomas
Thursday, 3 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Leander Deeny / Stephanie Thomas
Friday, 4 June 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Michelle Luther
Saturday, 5 June 2010 (3.00pm) – Leander Deeny / Michelle Luther
Saturday, 5 June 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Michelle Luther
Sunday, 6 June 2010 (3pm) – Leander Deeny / Stephanie Thomas

WEEK THREE – 8-13 June 2010
Tuesday, 8 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Leander Deeny / Stephanie Thomas
Wednesday, 9 June 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Michelle Luther
Thursday, 10 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Friday, 11 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Lizzy Watts
Saturday, 12 June 2010 (3.00pm) – Samuel Barnett / Michelle Luther
Saturday, 12 June 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Lizzy Watts
Sunday, 13 June 2010 (3pm) – Samuel Barnett / Stephanie Thomas

WEEK FOUR – 15-19 June 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010 (7.30pm) – George Rainsford / Michelle Luther
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 (7.30pm) – George Rainsford / Michelle Luther
Thursday, 17 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Stephanie Thomas
Friday, 18 June 2010 (7.30pm) – James Graham / Lizzy Watts
Saturday, 19 June 2010 (3.00pm) – George Rainsford / Michelle Luther
Saturday, 19 June 2010 (7.30pm) – Samuel Barnett / Michelle Luther

About The Playwright James Graham

Playwright James Graham is a Playwright-in-Residence at the Finborough Theatre. In 2003, James sent an unsolicited script to the Finborough Theatre and since then they have produced his Pearson Award-winning Albert’s Boy (2005), Eden’s Empire (2006), winner of the Pearson Award’s Catherine Johnson Best Play Award 2007; Little Madam (2007) on the life of Margaret Thatcher, and Sons of York (2008), named Time Out Critics’ Choice. He was also the Finborough Theatre’s nominee for the BBC’s and Royal Court’s ‘The 50’ programme (of the 50 most exciting new writers in the UK) in 2006. Since being discovered by the Finborough Theatre, he has gone on to write for the Soho Theatre (Tory Boyz), Clywd Theatr Cymru (A History of Falling Things), BBC Radio 4, ITV1 (Caught in a Trap starring Connie Fisher), and the Bush Theatre - and The Whisky Taster which opened at the Bush Theatre in January 2010 and won great critical acclaim – ★★★★★ Five Stars, The Independent and The Telegraph - as well as the forthcoming Huck (National Tour and Southwark Playhouse).

About The Director Kate Wasserberg

Director Kate Wasserberg is New Plays Director at Clwyd Theatr Cymru where she has directed The Glass Menagerie (Clwyd Theatr Cymru and National Tour) and James Graham’s A History of Falling Things (Clwyd Theatr Cymru and Sherman Cymru). Forthcoming directing includes Pieces by Hywel John at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Spring 2010. Kate was previously Associate Director at the Finborough Theatre where she directed Sons of York and Little Madam, both by James Graham, and The Representative, I Wish to Die Singing and The New Morality.

The Press on James Graham and Kate Wasserberg’s previous collaborations

“One of the best new plays of the year…a real triumph for the Finborough”. British Theatre Guide on Sons of York

“A must-see event.” The Telegraph on Little Madam

“While perfect is an ominous word, this production comes as close to it as I have seen this year – an absolute must-see production.” The Western Mail on A History of Falling Things.

“Directed with verve and sensitivity by Kate Wasserberg.” Sam Marlowe, The Times, on Sons of York

The Press on The Man

★★★★ Four Stars TNT
★★★★ Four Stars The Guardian
★★★★ Four Stars
★★★★ Four Stars The Daily Telegraph

Time Out Critics’ Choice

“The piece, directed by Kate Wasserberg, forms the mainstay of the Finborough’s event-crammed 30th anniversary celebrations this month…This tiny pub theatre has mounted some very cutting-edge work down the years - most notoriously Anthony Neilson’s scatological shocker The Censor - but in its own unpredictable way, The Man upholds the Finborough’s radical, experimental traditions.” Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“The whole story will be told in a different way in a different order, providing a “uniquely interactive experience” which for once is exactly what it says.”

“I left feeling thoroughly exhilarated and really quite moved. This was a truly thrilling night at the theatre, fresh and exciting, heartbreaking and funny, but above all genuinely engaging.”

“What would a year’s worth of receipts, the kind of bundle you’d need to complete a self-employed tax-return, say about your life, if you were to pile them up and sift them all through?... That’s the beautifully simple idea at the heart of James Graham’s ingenious, touching and wryly intelligent new play” Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is the way that Graham takes an arid, theatically unpromising activity and finds in it scope to unpack all kinds of youthful confusions, dashed hopes, shrewd insights and mixed feelings. What has he to declare? Talent - tons of it.” Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“A 90 minute solo tour de force” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“By the end of what started as a comedy routine about a form that we all love to hate, there will have been more than a few tears of grief joining those of laughter from earlier on.” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“Whether you have ever filled in a tax return or not, The Man comes strongly recommended. After all, you must have lived and that is the only qualification required to enjoy this night out.” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“Quirkily sentimental…A little gem” Zena Alkayat, Time Out

“No other writer – at least, not that I’ve encountered – comes so close to voicing my own nagging concerns as (repellent though it might sound) a twenty-something, London-based, middle-class, white, male young-professional.” Matt Trueman, CarouselOfFantasies.Blogspot

“It’s smart and witty stuff.” Matt Trueman, CarouselOfFantasies.Blogspot

“INTERACTIVE plays are often more concerned with indulging their creators' whims than adding anything to the audiences' experience, but James Graham's The Man gets the formula just about right…There's just enough engagement with the audience without the uneasy atmosphere these kinds of experiment can generate (much like the worst stand-up comedy).” Robert Cumber, The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

“It's remarkable how much Graham manages to pack into just 60 minutes, including a flirtatious encounter with a girl on the helpdesk of HM Revenue & Customs.” Robert Cumber, The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

“An entertaining and often very funny cross-section of a young Londoner's life.” Robert Cumber, The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

“In this sophisticated and innovative new play, tax really isn’t all that taxing.” Honour Bayes,

“A raw and revealing journey: in this consumer driven world, what we buy really does define us.” Honour Bayes,

“The fluidity of this format – each night is different depending on the audience and the particular receipts selected – lends the show a natural improvised feel and the rotating cast adds to this sense of unaffected interaction.” Honour Bayes,

“A touching and funny monologue about a young man’s attempts to get to grips with life.” Natasha Tripney,

“Sometimes it's the sheer inventiveness of an idea that generates a great piece of writing. A case in point is The Man, brilliantly executed at a tiny theatre above a pub near Earl's Court.” Sheila Cornelius,

“Theatre is different every night, but this new piece by James Graham, which forms the centrepiece of a Finborough festival offering 30 plays in 30 days, takes the idea of flux to Ayckbourn-style lengths.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The idea of tax receipts as an index to existence is highly original.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The Man is one of those plays that you walk into not really knowing what to expect. Joy abounds, therefore, upon discovering a beautifully characterised slice of London life that drags you from laughter to sorrow within an exceedingly short space of time.” (The Play’s the Thing)

“A little gem amidst the dross often seen in fringe theatre.” (The Play’s the Thing)

“James Graham’s The Man is an exercise in interactive theatre. It’s also a touching and funny monologue about a young man’s attempts to get to grips with life.” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“It also means that, in theory, no two performances will take the same form and even stripped of this structural flexibility the play would remain a slim, familiar but well-targeted insight into what it means to be in your twenties and short on confidence, watching friends take steps into adulthood while you continue to tread water.” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“It’s a lovely piece of work. It's stuffed full of intriguing monologues - some light-hearted, some deeply affecting. Despite the ever-changing running order of the play, Graham's writing successfully delves deep into Ben's history, his family and his inability to form lasting relationships, without the chronology ever really seeming off despite the jumps in time periods.” Miriam Zendle,

“Stunning stuff.” Miriam Zendle,

“The big thing with The Man is its liveness. The piece is being performed by a rotating, or, rather, fluctuating cast of four actors. But, more excitingly, despite there being a printed text of the play, the piece is different every night of its run.” Andrew Haydon,

“At the conclusion of my first viewing of the show, I was more or less convinced that this “live” element was actually a bit of a cheat. I thought there was probably a certain amount of forward planning, or perhaps Derren Brown-style trickery so that we the audience *thought* we were feeding the performer receipts entirely at random, but in fact were just handing precisely the props he needed when he needed them. There isn’t. …Talking to Graham, consulting the script, chatting to other actors doing the show, and then seeing the piece for a second time – with the narrative delivered in an entirely different order – it’s entirely true: the order is complete chance. Which makes the show, a) a bugger to review (how to avoid “giving away the ending” when you don’t know which section is going to end any given performance?), and b) a pretty impressive testament to Graham’s strength as a writer.” Andrew Haydon,

“That said, having four actors rotating in the part feels like an excellent idea for a new play, as it offers four different takes on the material in an way that new plays are hardly ever afforded. Granted it’s only got one director (the excellent Kate Wasserberg) and one “staging”, but it feels like the actors here – clearly with the two I saw (and I haven’t ruled out trying to catch more) – haven’t been shoe-horned into a role “created” by another actor, but are each offering their personal interpretation of the part.” Andrew Haydon,

“So, what does one get out of the whole experience? I’ve rabbited on at unhelpful length mostly about the theatrical properties of this production – because that’s kind of what I like about theatre: its theatreyness. But actually, The Man is also a lovely, big-hearted, very funny story about getting round to growing up a bit. It’s really sweet and it leaves you feeling generally cheered up and the better for having seen it. Which isn’t a bad result for an impressive exploration of the relationship between audience and performer, performer and text, and text and audience.” Andrew Haydon,

“James Graham’s clever and touching new play, the story behind those unsorted receipts turns this 75 minute near-monologue into an unexpected delight – not least because of a perfect fit between performer Samuel Barnett and a role that could have been written for him.” Louise Kingsley, TNT

“Those little moments which could so easily be forgotten but are brought poignantly to life in this highly recommended and unpretentious little gem.” Louise Kingsley, TNT

“James Graham managed to get a tear rolling down my cheek within 10 minutes from his reaction to a song starting up. He was utterly convincing as the shy, apologetic Ben”

“I feel really quite lucky to have seen Graham performing his own work, his obvious deep connection to the material heightened the emotion of the moment quite considerably and I am sure I am not the only one who left ever so slightly in love with him.”

“If you can get tickets to one of the random nights that James Graham is performing then do it, you will not regret it.”

“Lizzy Watts as the unrepresentatively cheerful and helpful Lisa from HM Revenue and Customs” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“The Man is a clever play that requires a talented actor, and Barnett (taking a night out from Women Beware Women at the National) is one of the best” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“Samuel Barnett, a face familiar from several TV appearances, is convincingly vulnerable as Ben” Sheila Cornelius,

“Graham plays his own creation with gawky charm, handling the tonal shifts adroitly and sidestepping self-pity to deliver a character who is intensely likeable in all his foibles, follies and doubts.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Everything depends on the performance, and Barnett is astonishing at confiding in the audience and conveying Ben's mixture of guilt, shyness and fundamental goodness in this picture of a nervous but likable individual coping with the populated solitude of city life.“ Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Barnett is a wonderful actor, able to hit both the comic and dramatic notes with ease. He is a sympathetic actor, able to squeeze every emotional point out of the material without overplaying either the script or his own performance.” (The Play’s the Thing)

“Superbly played by Samuel Barnett” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“Leander Deeny, whose gulping nervousness is pricked with flashes of direct eye contact that create an engaging mixture of timidity and confidence; it’s a potent combination.” Honour Bayes,

“James Graham is a talented writer with that rare ability to surprise while illuminating everyday experiences and expounding his own philosophy.” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“It’s tempting to say that the narrative itself (or rather the events that are covered in the piece) is “classic Graham”. Except that looking back at the reviews of the other two plays by James Graham (Little Madam and Sons of York) I happen to have reviewed, that claim seems a little hard to back up. Where previous plays (see also: Eden’s Empire and Tory Boyz) have worried hard at Britain’s class-based politics, The Man, while touching on political themes (not least the question of taxation, which lies at the heart of every British election), is unashamedly personal. It deals primarily with attempts at love and coping with death. It’s also a smartingly funny snapshot of what it’s like being a non-native, twentysomething Londoner, living on precious little money in the early 21st century.” Andrew Haydon,

“The production, directed with quiet sensitivity by Kate Wasserberg, is interactive. On entering the theatre, each audience member is handed a crumpled receipt. The order in which Ben retrieves these determines the progression of the play’s narrative.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“James Graham's The Man, which sounds terrific, opens at the Finborough on Thursday in the 7.30pm slot and from next Wednesday at 9.30pm, as the Earls Court play-generating boiler room celebrates its 30th anniversary with readings of 30 new plays. On Wednesday it's Mike Bartlett's Bull, to be followed on Thursday and Friday by new plays from Michael Louis Wells and Nick Payne. The Finborough's achievement is a mighty one, doing more for new writing on little or no money than some other, better-funded theatres, and next week sees its production of Dream of the Dog transferring straight from Earls Court to Trafalgar Studios.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“James Graham’s play, first seen last year, is revived here for the Finborough’s 30th anniversary season of work by playwrights — among them Mike Bartlett, David Eldridge, Mark Ravenhill and Laura Wade — whose success is in some part due to this enterprising small venue.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“James Graham began his career as a playwright-in-residence at the Finborough, leaving him perfectly equipped to contribute to Vibrant, the theatre's thirtieth celebrations, and with a keen understanding of what holds the attention of small audiences in small venues.” Zena Alkayat, Time Out

25 May – 19 June 2010

Tickets and Times

Monday 7:30pm
Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from 5 June 2010)
Sunday 3:00pm

65 minutes with no interval