Pearls Before Swine: An Evening With Orson Welles – Sydney Fringe Festival

Witty, refined, compelling: it’s a lot to ask from a one-man show, and yet this one is all three at all times. A lecture in the style of Orson Welles, his farewell to the United States before leaving for Europe, Pearls Before Swineis a showcase of the one of the biggest personalities of the 20th century.

Blake Erickson

It’s also a showcase of Blake Erickson’s talents. Born to play Welles, Erickson possesses a natural gravitas that carries the piece from Shakespearean recital to wry humor to condemnation of humanity to personal confession and back again without missing a beat. It’s confidential, genuine, slick, and a little bit smarter than you, but that’s the best thing about it.

Welles recounts anecdotes from his life and career  – the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast;  creating and weathering the experience of Citizen Kane; the mother he lost at a young age – from a simple, evocative stage. He drinks whisky and smokes, he digresses, he charms.  And it works.

[pull_left]This is a well-shaped, well-timed, blessedly self-aware piece of independent theatre[/pull_left]This is a well-shaped, well-timed, blessedly self-aware piece of independent theatre: Erickson and director Sarah Blackstone know when to end a scene and when to hold it; when to press for a laugh and when to let a moment land. The show has benefited from a few different turns out in front of audiences, and this go-round is sharper, pithier, and more emotionally resonant than the staging earlier this year the Sidetrack Theatre, due largely to a better internal sense of timing.

Erickson is good at this – he knows what makes good theatre. His innate sense of emotional and comic timing both is what sets him apart from a good deal of actors on Sydney stages; Erickson understands his characters and represents them with skilful honesty.

Orson Welles was one of the greatest creative minds of our time, and at the end of Pearls Before Swine, it’s easy to feel like the man behind the iconic legacy is understandable, relatable, human. It’s a triumph.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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