One man, a table, a chair and an audience gathered round to hear to separate stories, loosely linked by a theme of air crashes. Part literary reading, part performance poetry, Chris Thorpe’s High Speed Impact Test Number One, may just put you off flying for life.
The intimate setting makes for a real connection between reader and audience and the stories themselves benefit from this arrangement. Both tales are multi-threaded and require real concentration from the listener to follow ever nuance.
Comprehension is aided by Thorpe’s genial approach, treating his audience as long lost friends, and also his skill as a performer. Although read from a script, a fact explained by Thorpe because he adapts the material so much, each tale is delivered with pace and emotion that makes the layered tales vividly drawn.
The first tale of the double bill is set in a hotel room where the narrator is in discussion with an unseen person that we eventually discover is likely to be a prostitute. There’s a confessional feeling in the air as the narrator begins to unravel his dual role in a near air disaster. It becomes a multi character experience as we not only follow the narrator’s tale but also look at the wider dilemmas people face in the face of disaster.
The second tale also has an air disaster as a backdrop, this time looking at the impact of two separate men. An air traffic controller whose mind wanders with severe impact at work and a second whose house is destroyed by air crash wreckage. This second tale is perhaps more complex than the first with multiple themes overlapping. It is also more poetic with a strong sense of use of rhythm and repetition to create a strong vocal cadence.
High Speed Impact Test Number One is hard to categorise, part script reading, part poetry, part performance, whatever the category it is a strong showcase for Chris Thorpe’s clear writing skills. He is also an engaging performer that makes the material come alive off the page. Perhaps the first tale would benefit from some slight careful editing but it’s a minor niggle in a demonstration of a exciting literary talent.