Review: The Final Approach (Brighton Fringe)

Marlowe Productions bring a 70-minute livestream to Brighton Fringe (now available on demand until 27 June) which dips into the world of 1940s noir and pulp detective novels to take us into the world of sleep deprivation in the mid-1960s. This story, The Final Approach, though, is not that story.

Sam Marlowe, narrator and protagonist, is at school, struggling with the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. He creates a world in his head in which Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe (see where the name of the main character comes from, now?) walk the grimy streets in atmospheric black and white.

Instead of whisky, our narrator drinks Ribena with a straw, but the words are purely in the Chandler mode. Thom Jordan, writes, directs and performs this piece. Taking inspiration from Bruce McAllister and Randy Gardner’s scientific experiment of sleep deprivation back in 1963 (Gardner lasted 11 days in a “state of wakefulness”), Sam Marlowe, distracted schoolboy, tries to do the exact same thing.

Promotional image for The Final Approach

Best experienced through headphones, The Final Approach feels like what dreams might be if you are on the edge of sleep yet not reaching there. If you know your film noir and your cheap detective stories, you’ll recognise the tropes and the cliches. All you see is Jordan at his old-style microphone and shadowy images projected behind him. You hear distortions, notes of suggestive music, and the odd sound effect.

This is an enjoyable show which is richly detailed and layered, with the asides you’ll recognise from both the genre itself and years of parody. With all the characters conjured up before us, this is more than the world created in a little boy’s mind. It is something far beyond his sleepless state, and it is very strange. It works just as well as an audio experience as a visual show.

Perhaps best enjoyed if you are already immersed in this world, so you can catch the spirit of the show, The Final Approach succeeds in creating something in which the tight and economical writing pays tribute to the world of femme fatales, gangsters, fall guys, fat men, and double crossers.

Fringe rating: *** (and a half)

You can access The Final Approach at the Living Record as part of the Brighton Fringe until 27 June 2021. Book your ticket here (£5).

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