When Martin Figura was nine, his father killed his mother. This one-man-show begins with Figura recalling an almost idyllic childhood packed with Airfix planes and football annuals. His parents’ marriage is described fondly through the use of audio readings of his mother’s love letters.
Onstage these accounts are augmented by family photographs and archives are projected to provide captivating visuals.
When it comes to the most harrowing aspect of this story, his father’s mental deterioration is dealt with great sensitivity. Clearly traumatised by harrowing war-time experiences, things begin to unravel for his father when it is discovered by his factory colleagues that he served in the German army. He becomes paranoid and jealous and events lead to the killing of his wife, for which he is sent to Broadmoor.
Through imaginative use of poetry and verse Figura describes his subsequent feelings of abandonment as briefly stays with relatives before being sent to live in the Vineyard children’s home (described in the video excerpt below). Later, he is taken in by a local family, the Piggots, who help get Figura’s father moved to a hospital nearby. Figura visits regularly and, while he stops short of full forgiveness, he learns to like his father once more.
While the subject matter is dark and dramatic, he engages the audience with his blend of story-telling and poetry. In lesser hands, this could have been another sensation-seeking ‘misery memoir’. But it’s Figura’s imagination and subtlety that makes Whistle an empathic exploration of a traumatic childhood.
Whistle runs until 29 August.