‘Mayday Mayday’ I’ve fallen and can’t move—Tristan Sturrock’s One Man Show


St. Ann’s Warehouse, 29 Jay St., Brooklyn; 866-811-4111. Through May 5. Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

Tristan Sturrock’s predicament was no laughing matter, but laugh out loud you will as he energetically recounts the tale of his falling off a wall and breaking his neck.  Life affirming theatre has a way of smacking an audience in the face, with truth that belies the sleepiness of a busy-busy day.

A Frankensteinian resurrection of sorts begins the performance, when from behind the scrim the actor centers the audience on the body, and breathing.  And then whiz, bang, Sturrock pops into action with an exciting command of the stage.  If you’re not familiar with his stage presence, now you are.  “Mayday Mayday” is the story of a man who promised himself not to drink too much on the annual pagan celebration.  He must return with chips for his wife who is five months pregnant.   He drinks too much, and the consequence is a horrific accident, tumbling backwards down a wall, where he lies broken neck, breath growing shallow… time passing numbly by.

Obviously he’s lived to tell it, and overcome paralysis.  Sturrock the storyteller uses such artifactual care, immersing the audience in the sleeplessness of rumination.  ‘Halo-brace or operation?’, the choice he must decide, the anxiousness of it all he conveys well.  One will have him wearing a cantankerous apparatus bolted to his body for 18 months, the other… well, if the Doctor slips a millimeter — asphyxiation.   The question “What would you decide, Doctor?” gets an ambiguous reply.  Regarding the surgical choice the chipper Doctor closes, “…we all have our off days. Now try and get some rest.”  The story keeps the audience on edge through the twists and turns of life.  Not just his, but anyone’s for that matter.  Everyday we have to make these kinds of choices.

We have to deliberate, and sometimes there’s an immediate deadline pressing.  Not kind of… it does make you humble, when you consider the kinds of choices that lay before you, instead of you before them as was the case for Sturrock.  What ever your story is, I need to find a new studio space, but this one’s too far away, that one’s too expensive, the other one I can afford, but its so far off the subway line.

Do I or don’t I go to graduate school?  What do I study?  What if I choose the wrong thing, and can’t afford the newly acquired debt?

I can’t afford my rent, where do I move?  Do I get a second job?  But when will that give me time for my creative work, my family… my life!?

Choices, choices, choices.  Is it ignorance, churlishness?  There’s something about living in such an expansive time, yet having been raised by a culture who by their own actions created this vortex of freedom while they lived in a time when, for example,  you got a higher education (or not) and then went on to a career and stayed there ’til retirement.  (Those days for a growing number are over, for now.)  Every generation, every period of culture has innumerable choices to make, but if to express our time as being like that moment when the galaxy exploded into gases and stars collided making more stars—the most expansive times of the galaxy, that’s the time we live in today.  We live in a time of turbulence, that can be felt and known interiorly, and seen and heard exteriorly.  Like getting on one of these new high-speed trains, bulletting through townships and cities big and small, sometimes you loose your grip and your hanging on to that last car getting whipped around the curves and you can continue getting whipped around, or make that choice as to how you are going to get onboard that moving train.  Or, you can let go and get left behind.

No matter how heavy the choices, you are not paralyzed.  Despite what the bad news of the day is, you still have to take responsibility for your self.  No matter what’s going on with anyone or any where else, you still have to face what is going on with you.  No matter what choice you make, no matter how sound, there will always be consequences.  I can make this joke because Sturrock kind of did: but he had fear on his side.  No one could make that choice for him.  In some ways fear pushes you, but sometimes that kind of fear appears late in the game… like after the fact, Dear So and So,  You have 30 days to get out.  By that time your choices are limited for reasons of a clock being set to countdown.  There’s an idea!  Don’t wait for life to set a count down, take control and set your own timer to begin.

Read more reviews:

Huffington Post (Bess Rowen)

New York Times

New York Post