Upon entering the half empty auditorium of the ADC my high hopes for this one-man show slightly wavered. The opening scene, however, restored them, a pinnacle of comic vulnerability. Oskar McCarthy entered the stage in only his underwear, holding onto his horn as though for dear life. He was reliving every underconfident musician’s trauma of complete panic in moments of exposure. This anxiety, panic and underconfidence were the key characteristics of Jasper - the man with the mid-life crisis, who, accompanied by swells of Sibelius’ fifth symphony, discovered that his way of reaching catharsis was through brushing the dust of his horn, culminating in a performance of Mozart’s Horn Concerto in E flat (K447, as we were repeatedly told).

The many characters were expertly crafted, both vocally and physically. Although one trait was repeated in all the characters (he covered his face with his hand not just when he was playing the anxious Jasper), and the accents of Mozart and Joseph slipped from Viennese to odd, these were insignificantly minor blips in otherwise a incredibly well-developed array of characters - it did not feel like a one-man show. And it was simply hilarious. McCarthy managed to deliver the comic lines with great timing, confidence and energy, and carried the audience with him right to the very end. A particular favourite scene took place in the school orchestra - the typically overkeen conductor and distracted students must have resonated with anyone who has ever played in a school orchestra. Momentary losses of interest, if any, were only due to Jasper’s anxiety being perhaps a little overdone and too frequent - though the latter of course cannot be attributed to the actor.

Admittedly, McCarthy’s talent could not save all the cheesy lines in the play - but the ultimate effect was one of inspiration. No doubt an exhausting night for the man, but even at the very end the performance of the Mozart was well-acted and well-played. For someone who is normally a very good horn player, it must have been particularly difficult to play badly on purpose, but he resisted the horn player’s natural urge to show off and thus portrayed a very convincing journey, with a message of overcoming (personal) obstacles and regaining a sense of self-worth. Perhaps, ultimately, the very intimate setting actually captured the audience more than a full-house would have done - as the play was very personal. The experience was definitely enhanced by the minimalist setting and very smooth scene changes. And who knew there were so many profound things written about the French horn.

If you haven’t booked a ticket to see this yet - do it. It’s a superb show, and if McCarthy can maintain the energy of the opening night throughout the run it will definitely be worth your time.