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Friday, 3 December 2010

"That Which Began In Honey, Ends In Despair"

Forget what you know about Edward Lear's rhyme. It is idealist, fantasy nonsense. What occurred in reality was nothing short of a sick and twisted crime orchestrated, it would seem, solely to create misery and fear. A torture dreamt up in the minds of persons unknown, minds more sadistic than the most depraved of men. 

Stewart Lee's scratch-piece, Pea Green Boat, is quite simply a masterpiece. Exploring the baffling logic, or lack thereof, behind an Owl and a Cat sailing together in an inappropriately-coloured vessel, the terrifying feeling one must feel when one finds oneself the object of its natural predator's lust, Pea Green Boat is funny because it's true. If you were to ask me what this was, I wouldn't say a comedy. I wouldn't even say a theatre-piece. I'd call it art. 

Telling the well-known tale in the form of The Owl's Diary, this piece charts the Owl's terrifying descent into what can only be described as "mental illness". It's paranoia, hallucinations, fears and hopes are drip-fed to us over twenty-one minutes of heartbreaking loneliness and bizarrely recognisable, yet achingly sad, senility. I've never felt more concerned for the mental welbeing of an Owl since Richard Herring claimed to have made love to one in the late 1990s. 

Don't make the mistake that these are the anthropomorphic characters you know from reading the rhyme as a child. What we have here are an actual Owl and an actual Cat, set upon by a mysterious foe and tortured to madness. The entries in the Owl's diary and that of the Turkey shed little light on the realities of the journey, only that you wouldn't want to be stranded on a small rowing boat with an Owl at its wit's end. The closing entry in particular, from the Turkey's journal, actually brought a tear to my eye. I can imagine this work being adapted into a three-man stage play. But there really is no need as Pea Green Boat is as near-perfect a piece of performance art as you will ever find.

I highly recommend you purchase this. It's not expensive at all and is available on CD or as a limited edition vinyl release. You can get it from Go Faster Stripe. You should get it. I urge you to. Then we can remember the ill-fated animal sailors together.