by Laura Ferguson
The stage is empty save a microphone stand and a single chair in the middle of the stage. Gerard Harris comes out and immediately sits on the chair, his body is tense, hands gripping the front of the chair, ankles crossed as he rocks slightly and welcomes us to the show. He speaks quickly, as if he has so much he wants to tell us. This effect is so direct that I am instantly drawn in, myself and the woman beside me both leaning forward to experience him at even closer proximity. He hasn’t even started the storytelling part of the show yet. It goes almost beyond engaging into downright hypnosis.
Harris moves constantly, leaning back, leaning forward, arms akimbo. While this mostly takes place on the chair, he fills up the entire room with his exuberance. This comes from the singular focus the audience places upon him and when he goes to the microphone stand; it’s like a camera has panned out or flashed away to further illustrate on one of Harris’ memories.
The parts that cut away to the microphone stand are some of my favourites. During these parts, Harris recalls specific stand-up jokes, and they are made distinctive by a change in lighting from white to an amber spotlight, courtesy of Patrick Davies. They are normally short asides before Harris blasts back into the storytelling. They provide a nice beat in which the show slows down slightly, letting me catch my breath and have a good laugh before we enter the frantic, immersive pace Harris whirls his show through.
The stories centre around Harris’ forays and fumbles through adult life. Attention Seeker concentrates on Harris’ milestones of self-discovery;to reveal more would not do his storytelling skills justice. Gerard Harris brings his unique passion to the topics of therapy, mental health, retreats of both life and of the stage, of battle charges into both as well, all told with his own brand of frenzied energy.
However, as much as I loved Harris’ performance, he is fortunate that he is so capable in keeping the interest of the audience. There are a lot of departures from the narratives he tells, and he bounces back and forth between them all. If not enough attention is paid, the jarring transitions can cause confusion. There are no segues between the call-backs to previous anecdotes, so I had to hold several stories to make sense of them. This particular technique of Harris’ did not detract from my thorough enjoyment of Attention Seeker though.
As a mile-a-minute talker, Harris asks questions, rambles, side-tracks then comes back, his audience transfixed as we experience it all with him. Afterwards, I was bouncing out of the theatre, crackling with osmosed energy. Some shows are contemplative, some are melancholy, some leave you with cheeks flushed and sore from use. Attention Seeker is a show of action - of doing, being, living, seeking and I loved every minute of it.
Attention Seeker is on at BATS theatre from Friday 17th February – Monday 20th February. Check the BATS Theatre website for ticketing information.
Gerard Harris will also be performing a new experimental show at the Gryphon Theatre on Wednesday 22nd at 7pm for a KOHA entry fee.