Spotlight On: Lewis Doherty
It’s easy to imagine Lewis Doherty as the kid at school who everybody gathered around in the playground to listen to him beat box. He was probably the kid who sneakily made farting noises with his mouth at the back of the classroom and whispered that it was the teacher. At home, he was the kid who would frantically press the X button on his games console control to dish out another wallop to the bad guy who was already defeated. It’s this childhood energy that rushes through his one-man theatre shows that makes them side-splittingly funny, rapid paced and a delight to watch unfold.
Hailing from the East Midlands, Doherty is a Creative Associate at the Nottingham Playhouse and the creator of production company, BEASThouse. Following a stellar run at the Fringe, he showcased two shows at Curve's New Work festival (formerly known as Inside Out). The first was WOLF, a punk police thriller following our hero trying to solve the mystery of who killed his ex partner, Jay Walker; who ironically died doing his namesake. Set in Shadow City, the thriller introduces over thirty characters including a manic but caring tin collecting man who wants to live the sweet life with his metal friends, a naive but ambitious young cop named Curtis, a prim and polished British villain and a Magic Man gangster whose party trick is to make lines of coke disappear. Portrayed by Doherty dressed in a ninja-esque black assemble with only a chair, a couple of hand-held lights and incidental music, the characters were wildly vivid and imaginative. In his second show, BOAR, we joined a gruff man’s quest to seek revenge on pirates who destroyed his village and killed his family whilst he was a boy. Joined by his underestimated but badass sidekick, Yilfa, the pair come into trouble when Yilfa’s necklace is stolen. In a Shrek-inspired plot, the bandits are hailed by the King to rescue his daughter who is locked away with a dragon. It is demanded that on their way, they must take the Prince - a silver spoon in mouth gap year student who has just returned from a year in Tanzania.
The power of Doherty’s work comes from his limitless imagination, and also the fact that he would be a gold medallist in the theatre world's Olympics due to his relentless physicality. He is able to replicate familiar everyday sounds with his mouth and mimic the action with perfect timing; placing us in nightclub brawls, helicopter rides and underwater. He keeps control of a conversation and quickly switches between multiple characters with swift head turns and shoulder shrugs, using his body to place himself in a fictitious scene. Partnered with simple underscore, the complex narratives and characters are easy to immerse into and recognise due to their quirky individual mannerisms. In fact, it would be far more confusing if the show were dressed with props and scenery for it would diminish the true talent of Doherty’s writing and acting. Taking the biggest familiar cliche characters and plot progressions in popular culture, Doherty adds a fresh lick of paint. His approach to parody is not to simply mock, but to take all of the lovable traits and conventions of action movies and pay homage to them. The jokes are fresh and easy, mostly gently mocking the characters and their movement, for Doherty does not take his work too seriously and even throws in a monologue about pasta. Quite often the understated characters provide the most delight. There's Crispin, the blinking King’s man with a lisp who spits across the stage, and the oldest man in the realm who spends just a few awkward seconds too long making his away across the stage before suffering a heart attack at the final checkpoint (“But what will we tell his father!”) as well as Bigs and Smalls, two bank robbers ("Who even robs banks anymore?") who accidentally hand over their identity. Without giving too much away, it is a great surprise to learn that the universes of WOLF and BOAR are cleverly connected meaning that there could be many more feats to be enjoyed.
Doherty’s theatre feels huge. With an appetite for adventure and fantastical scope, BOAR and WOLF are shows of epic proportion that are intelligently written and packed with wit. Doherty is a writer for this generation, providing a wonderful visceral escape for 60 minutes.