If you were to wander backstage, into green rooms and dressing rooms and the dark spaces of the wings, you might hear performers whispering a cheery, “Break a leg!” They don’t mean it. No actor, save a very disgruntled understudy, really wishes disaster on a fellow. And they certainly wouldn’t want a teardrop fracture of the cervical spine, like Tristan Sturrock suffered when he fell off a wall almost nine years ago and which he recalls in the autobiographical solo show Mayday Mayday, produced by Theatre Damfino and running at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Sturrock, a leading man for England’s Kneehigh Theatre, impressed audiences with his graceful performance in the recent Brief Encounter, a turn that seems all the more remarkable knowing he managed it after spending a month immobilized and more than a year in physical therapy. In this antic 70-minute piece, Sturrock relates his accident and his laborious recovery. His wife, five months pregnant at the time of his fall, directs the drama.
To tell his tale, Sturrock, a ridiculously lithe and charming performer, makes much use of props, mirrors, haze, and a hell of a lot of underscoring. He needn’t. All the excess just seems a distraction from his own experiences, which, though painful, are absorbing. It’s telling that the show’s most effective moments are those in which Sturrock lies sprawled on the floor, barely illumined and motionless save for his quietly speaking mouth. Mayday Mayday would benefit from those common doctors’ orders: plenty of rest.