In the interests of showing off, here is a lovely review by Jaye Kearney of my show Be Prepared. This is based on a performance at The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds on March 13th.
“Be Prepared”, as titles go it is fairly ambiguous. Be prepared for what? The publicity image shows Matthew Bellwood dressed as a boy-scout so I arrive, half-expecting tales of camping, tying knots and ghost stories around a campfire. Be Prepared could also be perceived as a warning. However as soon as Matthew arrives on stage it is clear that no trepidation is necessary. He is warm, a little impish and casually dressed, not a toggle in sight.
The title actually refers to one of the ten short stories that we were about to be treated to.
Through the medium of these stories we are introduced to, among other things, several boys called Paul, The Tanzanian Boat Lady, a possible paedophile and a dead goldfish. There is no single, over-riding theme though common threads including the search for love, dead animals and the power of imagination are delicately woven throughout. The stories appear to be true though no doubt embellished for the audience but Matthew is keen to authenticate, often bringing artefacts from the tales to the stage with him (though thankfully not the dead goldfish) as proof.
The first half is deliciously laugh out loud funny. We hear of Matthew’s over-active imagination and the attack of the hairy hand, his first teenage encounter with a boy surprisingly set against a back-drop of Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks, and a mushroom-inspired declaration of love. The second half, we are warned, is somewhat darker in tone. Matthew proceeds to introduce us to a parade of dead creatures, goldfish included, before reaching a sudden climax that I for one was definitely not prepared for. It is a heart-stopping moment bringing home the brutal truth of human existence.
Overall it is a simple affair, just storyteller and his audience. Matthew does not hide behind gimmicks. And I am reminded of the distant childhood pleasure of being read to that I do not get to experience anymore. If I have any criticism it is that occasionally Matthew telegraphs his ideas with unnecessary gestures, juvenilising the telling in what is an otherwise an engaging, warm and deeply resonant evening.