Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fat Pig / Ravenhill

I paid my annual birthday visit to the West End to see “Fat Pig”, at the Trafalgar Studios (a stone’s throw from Nelson’s Column) last week, and it was amusing and provocative in equal measure, as is to be expected from writer/director Neil LaBute. Its theme is body-fascism amongst the American middle-classes, as Robert Webb’s Tom starts a relationship with plus-sized Helen, played by Ella Smith (clear winner in the battle of the accents), to the bemusement of laddish workmate Carter (Kris Marshall) and the conventionally attractive would-be girlfriend Jeannie (Joanna Page). As might be expected, there was a degree of crowd-pleasing comedy business from the male stars, riffing on their TV personas, but it was all in the service of a story which was never going to end well, otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. As we were filing out, I overheard a couple of fellow audience-members remarking that Smith’s character had been written as too perfect (funny, self-aware, self-deprecating, sharing Tom’s interest in war movies); I suppose that was the whole point, however – as in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” (what right-thinking white people would reject handsome doctor Sidney Poitier as a son-in-law? None – only wrong-thinking white people would). Not the most profound piece of theatre out there, perhaps, and one only has to look around one to see couples for whom such issues are not issues, but highly entertaining.

I read “Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat”, Mark Ravenhill’s collection of elegant short plays on the subject of middle-class responses to the War On Terror over a couple of days recently, and found it frustrating and heartening in equal measure. All fairly sarcastic about the West’s desire to spread liberal values, but then since he is a writer who has benefited greatly from the West’s liberal values, his obvious freedom to be sarcastic about them, and to be subsidised for doing so, is it itself as much a weapon in the War On Terror as any bomb or bullet. I think the phrase is “double-voiced utterance”.


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