Mind Full ★★★★★
Surprising as it may seem, it is four years since I last wrote about Tom Hartwell and his theatrical work and, most notably, his play Beyond 30. After two runs in London, this went on to great success at the Edinburgh Fringe -sadly without Tom in the lead - and a run on Broadway in New York, unsurprisingly, with Tom in the lead!
Clearly we have the omni-present Covid excuse to call on for the hiatus, but Tom was also developing his burgeoning movie career working with Edgar Wright in Last Night in Soho, and a film adaptation of his How To Cope with Oliver Pope that is currently circulating film festivals including Raindance.
But swiftly back to Mind Full, Hartwell’s latest work - produced in association with The Sleep Charity - this is, and I quote from the blurb, ‘a unique blend of theatre and stand-up comedy, highlighting the risks sleep deprivation causes to our emotional, physical, and mental health. The piece also addresses the ever-changing political landscape surrounding comedy and censorship’.
Quite simply, Hartwell has set up a beautifully revealing exploration of the various stages of James (Hartwell), an aspiring stand-up comedian, and Claire’s (Katherine Moran) a high-successful voice-over artist, relationship. Their respective professions act as triggers for scrutiny of their relationship, cleverly reflecting the naissance to the ultimate, ugly destructive demise.
Hartwell and Moran are perfectly matched as a couple, each trading a bitter sweet commentary that betrays the highs and lows of their liaison. Both are incisive, intriguing and intuitive in the execution of Hartwell’s script which swings from high humour to deep pathos. Hartwell, as an actor, has great physicality and it is with enormous flair that he swings from the serious commentary to the slap-bang performance required of a stand-up.
Mind Full is smartly directed by Conor Cook, a previous member of Hartwell’s ensemble in You Tweet My Face Space. A filmic quality pervades the piece which supports and enhances many of Hartwell’s decided qualities. Rest assured Mind Full is stacked full with sharp insights into the joys and despair of a relationship, coupled with some brilliant one liners – look out for the one about bastards and supermarkets!
For fear of repeating myself, Hartwell’s is a writer and actor of considerable talent who has an eye for a visual gag, but above all an inherent, shrewd understanding of the society that he writes about. Hopefully Mind Full has a life beyond its joyous birth at the Hope Theatre and that, when Broadway beckons this time, you’re mindful I want to see the matinee of Funny Girl, before your evening show!
Mind Full runs at the Hope Theatre until 11 March
Produced in association with The Sleep Charity