GRAFT - Tales of an Actor - Reviews
These are the full texts of reviews of Graft. The thumbnails on the right link to printable A4 Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) documents.
George Dillon, Steven Berkoff's "disciple" for more than twenty years, tells the story of Harry, an actor, from his first audition for a local authority grant, through the highs and lows of a long career, to its end.
And a fine performance it is, an object lesson to Harry who never had Dillon's talents or skills. He doesn't hold the stage for an hour and a quarter: he is the stage on which Harry's life unfolds, sweeping the audience along with irresistable force.
The text is Berkoff at his best: insightful and tightly written. It is good to see him getting back to where we are used to seeing him, after the dire Massageof '97. In Graft we see the real Berkoff.
The play should be compulsory viewing for all who want to take up an acting career, for nothing could be more calculated to put them off. Harry's life is a sad one: yes, it provides us, the audience, with some very funny moments but, even in the (very) occasional high spot, a sense of futility and sadness pervades the story.
But above all else, excellently written though the play is, it is Dillon's performance whch sticks in the mind, a virtuoso performance to cherish and a standard for the rest of the Fringe to live up to!
Peter Lathan, ABOUT.COM, 22 August 2000
It's a very simple formula. Put an extremely talented actor together with one of the best writers of our time, and you're in for an outstanding show.
The King's Head Theatre in Islington, always a force to be reckoned with, is currently playing host to George Dillon's one-man show based on work by Steven Berkoff.
Graft, Tales of an Actor, tells the story of Harry. Harry is a dedicated artist, often out of work, rejected and desparate to practise his craft. From auditioning at the local Town Hall for a drama school grant, through occasional working highs and low encounters with agents and directors to his final exit at Leicester Square tube, Steven Berkoff masterfully creates the world of an ever-struggling actor.
How much is based on truth from the life story of one of the theatrical geniuses of our time, isn't known. The performer, however, admits to some of it being somewhat close to the reality of his own life experience to date. This performance should, however, ensure that this will not be the case in the future.
It is a rare occurence that an actor can hold court on a stage, and whisk the audience away from their cramped auditorium seats and into a different life from one they have known or experienced. George Dillon achieved just that. With some obvious lessons learned from the great Berkoff himself, Dillon does a superb job on the tiny King's Head stage, and demonstrates his power to draw the appreciate audience into the sad and lonely world of Harry.
Graft, Tales of an Actor is a rich piece of theatre and well worth seeing.
Linda Revill, Greenroom-arts.com, 8 February 2001
In a festival that seems in danger of disappearing up its own backside as pieces about acting play to audiences made up almost entirely of actors, George Dillon's one-man show about the highs and lows of being an actor should be missable. That it isn't is a tribute to his source material Steven Berkoffs painfully funny novel - and the fact that it allows Dillon to do what he does best: overact.
Working-class Harry becomes an actor against the odds, but finds that he suffers for his art. Up against Oxbridge prejudice, the indifference of agents and the possibility of 10 weeks playing the hind legs of a donkey, Harry finally gives his last and best performance at Leicester Square tube station. The portrait of the descent from bright-eyed hopeful to desperate depressive rings true. One show that all those Edinburgh hopefuls should see.
Lyn Gardner, THE GUARDIAN, 22 August 2000
Enough to take breath away
WITH Steven Berkoff's Messiah premiering elsewhere on the Fringe, it would be easy to dismiss George Dillon's one-man adaptation of the writer's "tales of an actor" as simply the homage of a true disciple. No-one else captures Berkoff's voice quite like Dillon, after all. This, however, would be a grave disservice, overlooking the virtuosity of Dillon's performance that makes Harry - the conspiracy-theorising failed actor - very much his own; that holds the audience so rapt that at points I am convinced we collectively stopped breathing. It would also do an injury to Berkoff's writing that is so incisive, so damning of the "business" of theatre, that the young actress in the row behind me turned to her companion at the end, and with a sigh that verged on tears said: "So what are we going to do now?" She was not referring to the rest of the evening. It is certainly a tragedy - this life of a rep actor with only a modicum of talent but a blackly comic one, and Dillon clowns as much as he grimaces, strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage in a way that is intuitive and inventive - the most compelling storytelling you will see.
Robert Thomson, THE HERALD, 2 August 2000
Steven Berkoff's book made flesh by George Dillon
A one-hour solo performance about failure and unrequited talent, Graft blow-torches the facade off the acting world. The empty bitterness of the self-loathing soul of acting comes through in Berkoff's crippling poetic language and is stunningly executed by the genius of George Dillon. Vocally compelling, Dillon is an actor with it all. His electric desperation and vitriol collide with painful cravings of the soul, to produce a truly powerful performance. Never indulgent, Dillon's physicality is organically and poignantly precise. Initially, there is a worry that he is too much the disciple of Berkoff, but his own idiosyncratic, requited talent soon soars.
Davie Archibald, THE LIST, 10 August 2000
Theatrical life revealed in powerful one-man show
MOST actors may be fools, but at least the best of them know it. The rest of the theatrical profession - directors, agents, producers, funding agencies, critics - are pretty much all fools and knaves who couldn't care less about the actor's suffering for his, or her, art.
That's the thrust of writer/actor/producer/director Steven Berkoff's quasi-autobiographical novel Graft: Tales Of An Actor, now brilliantly transformed into a one-man stage performance by George Dillon.
The Manchester graduate is a long-time Berkoff associate who has performed in four of the iconoclastic Berkoff's plays, as well as directing the world premiere of his Brighton Beach Scumbags and collaborating on stagings of Sink The Belgrano! and Salome.
But here he seems to be virtually channelling him, adding ever-more layers of meaning and inference in a truly enthralling, painfully funny show that ought to be required viewing for anyone who's even remotely interested in theatre that's more visceral and challenging than the latest blockbuster musical.
Performed by Dillon without props, sets or costume changes, Graft relates the story of dedicated, deluded and lusty actor Harry. It is an extraordinary performance, aided only by lighting changes, with Berkoff's brutal but compassionate prose elevated to new heights by the impassioned physicality of Dillon's delivery. This uniquely vigorous and compelling theatrical experience continues tonight and tomorrow.
Kevin Bourke, Manchester Evening News, 26 April 2001
Spanning 30 years, Graft relates the life, times and ultimate demise of Harry, a jobbing actor who suffers intensely for his art.
Key events in Harry's life are brought to us, from his indecision when filling in his drama school application form to his suicide when he finally realises he'll, never be the great thespian he'd always dreamed of becoming.
Graft is penned by all-rounder Steven Berkoff, one of British theatre's finest talents. By turning in an assured and confident performance that Berkoff himself would be hard-pressed to top, George Dillon shines brightly in this one-man show.
The show offers a genuine insight into what it is that drives actors and makes them want to give away so much of themselves on stage.
At times it makes uncomfortable viewing, showing us in detail the sort of thoughts and feelings that many would be at pains to keep hidden from others.
But, there are moments of light relief amongst the pathos and, in being moving without ever lapsing into sentimentality, it is a bold and striking performance from an outstanding young actor.
Andrew Midgley, METRO, 23 August 2000
Graft - subtitled Tales Of An Actor - is Steven Berkoff's account of the trials and tribulations of a struggling thespian. It could equally be called An Actor's Lot Is Not A Happy One as Harry doesn't have a very good time of things.
We are guided from his first steps into the theatrical world, through his moderate success at work and less successful attempts at romance. to his bedraggled, miserable end via the rubber-faced George Dillon, who performs and directs this taxing monologue with an extraordinary amount of energy.
Although referring to Harry throughout in the third person, Dillon constantly metamorphoses into his troubled protagonist, who is by turns overwhelmed by joy, bowed by rejection and loneliness and contorted by hatred of his fellow actors, various directors and an oily agent.
Dillon pulls the comedy out of Harry's tragedy carefully and keeps up his explosive outbursts throughout, still managing to deafen us long after the average person would have shouted themselves hoarse.
Someone with scant idea of the workings of the theatrical world would miss a lot of the in-jokes and the performance, given how exhausting it is to watch, is a little too long.
But it is, nonetheless, a tour-de-force by Dillon and well worth seeing especially if you harbour delusions that the acting trade is a glamorous occupation.
Siobhan Murphy, Metro (London), 12 February 2001
Down and out thespian tragedy
IN THIS new piece based on stories by Steven Berkoff, George Dillon introduces us to Harry. From working-class guy with a chip on his shoulder to hesitant thespian to "angrily" inspired student to sad old man with his nose pressed up against the window of an actor's pub, we follow most steps of the curious acting profession which can not only bring fame and glory, but whose punishing and often cruel practices constantly challenge a sense of identity. Or is it simply that already vulnerable people are attracted to the would-be bright lights?
Dillon - who has a long history of working with Berkoff's material - has a perfect grasp of the writer's performance style: disturbingly intense to the point of histrionic. Deft use of cliché and formulaic language frame acute moments of insight, while witty one-liners expose the self-conscious, destructive feelings often associated with the profession: bitchiness, jealousy, envy, and ultimately a complete lack of self-worth, fed by constantly criticising and painful "mind talk". An audience full of fellow thesps howled in constant recognition of this very inward-looking and quintessentially British persona.
It may be a case of "That's entertainment", but strangely enough there's no redeeming sense that it is a life well-spent as Harry desperately accepts his final job as the back legs of a donkey. Don't put your daughter on the stage, or even your son.
Jan Fairley, THE SCOTSMAN, 11 August 2000
Dillon’s face creases up, dividing pitted skin into bundles of angry sinew as his cheekbones stand proud in the single overhead spot light. He is dressed all in black, barrel chest bound in a t-shirt, black combat trousers over bare feet - he looks more like Bruce Lee than a luvvie.
This man Dillon is ninja-hard and he struts and paces Komedia stage blasting the stupidly sparse audience with sheer physical presence and tight, well-drilled stagecraft.
Is he George Dillon, or is he Steven Berkoff? Twenty years of the working with the idiosyncratic Berkoff, means that the intensity of the master has rubbed off on the pupil.
This late (10pm start!) show is the world premiere of ‘Graft - Tales Of An Actor’ by Steven Berkoff, adapted from a short story collection about an actor’s life on the road.
The disciple starts the show in a blaze of energy. He leaps, he blasts, he swears, his hands support the narrative, his fingers claw the way through Berkoff’s agonised exposition.
It’s all about Harry. Harry is a poor, downtrodden rep actor with big ambitions and perhaps an inflated view of his own importance. Dillon spits out the tale: the tribulations of life in rep - rehearsals, gossip, jealousy, sex and so on.
It’s a long confession, ultimately resolved in tragedy. This show is on its way to Edinburgh, but those of us lucky enough to be at Komedia were privileged to see a master class in powerful performance - this was an explosive ticket.
To get the most from it you really need to be tuned into acting, to watch the moves, the nuances of the man. Then you might appreciate the power and the beauty of Dillon’s work.
As the extraordinary, tortured prose spits out of Dillon the younger man miraculously transforms, metamorphosing into the real Berkoff. I was stunned by the visual and verbal similarities between the two. Just what is the hold that Berkoff has over Dillon? For this almost supernatural transformation alone, Graft is worth the ticket price.
Jon Pratty, Seelife.Brighton.co.uk, 1 August 2000
Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) documents
The thumbnails below link to single-sheet A4 documents in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. These are ideal for printing out as front-of-house displays. For convenience all of these pages are available for downloading in a single (176Kb ) .zip file.
George Dillon's Tour Dates
(as of Tuesday, 07 April 2020)