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February 4, 2005

This Side Up, Unity Theatre

From: ic Liverpool, UK - Feb 4, 2005

By Philip Key, Daily Post

UNITY Theatre used to advertise itself with the slogan Expect the Unexpected. It's a policy which still holds true.

Where else in Liverpool would you come across an Indian from Singapore performing a one man one hour mime show?

Ramesh Meyyappan worked as a theatre director in Singapore before coming to Liverpool to gain a first class BA (Hons) at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and working with some local theatre groups.

He has also toured solo performances around Europe, America and Asia.

His latest performance This Side Up premiered at the Unity and commissioned by the theatre follows the adventures of a man at home, in the streets and in the countryside.

Meyyappan has a particularly mobile face, one which moves from happy to sad to surprise in a twinkle.

At one stage he even becomes a dog with flapping tongue, panting breath and growling mouth.

It opens with the man - he is not named - admiring a potted plant, trying to find a suitable location for it. He opens windows, closes them and eventually finds a place in the sun for it.

He undertakes his morning toilet, splashing water on his face, pulling his mouth as he shaves and finally dresses for his morning work with a peaked cap and a bag. He is a postman.

When he gets chased by a dog, Meyyappan plays both man and dog in a remarkably ingenious sequence.

The bulk of the story concerns his attempts to commune with nature and the birds in particular. Unfortunately there is a man with a gun...

Meyyappan is a tremendous performer, part Chaplin, part Mr. Bean part Marcel Marceau. As a deaf performer who communicates off-stage through sign language it is noticeable that some sort of sign language style mime also comes into the act.

Flames are expressed by wriggling fingers, for example, all perfectly understandable to any hearing person.

But it is not all plain sailing. There were times when I did wonder what on earth he was doing.

For the most part, however, this is a pretty good example of mime as entertainment with some unexpected moments thrown in as when he climbs among the audience for one scene.

Above all, it is very funny, Meyyappan's humorous expressions a constant delight with all the many scenes in the show amusingly recalled in a quick-fire reprise at his curtain call.

A fine musical score from Paul Skinner, excellent lighting effects from Sarah Kamender and lively direction by Mark Smith all help enormously.

© Trinity Mirror Plc 2005