“Uninvited”

at Bedlam Theatre, Saturday 18th August 2012

*Written for http://www.stagewon.co.uk. Published here: http://stagewon.co.uk/news/view/edinburgh-uninvited-review-august2012/*

Having followed the work of Fat Git Theatre since their inception, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the company and their work. At first, they seemed to be offering absurdity and madness in a disjointed world as a way of offering a respite from our hectic everyday lives. As time has worn on, however, it’s become clear to me that it’s not that simple; by incorporating grotesque performance style with narratives which are played out fairly conventionally, Josh Roche and his company are doing something pretty radical, presenting complex ideas accessibly.

Uninvited (which, for the record, I first saw during its preview stage in June), is adapted from a novella by Peter Mortimer and sees a man (called Me) have his life torn apart by the unexpected arrival of a stranger in his house (Him). That’s basically it, but through the use of humour and the implementation of Bouffons, Roche manages to make the story utterly compelling for the full hour.

The production is performed in a way which makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange, as the stranger is the most normal person in the play, and the Bouffons, in the shape of moving wallpaper, are truly disconcerting, eyeballing us in a way which is both terrifying and hilarious. The absurdism of the narrative is heightened by this performance style, which forces us to think about the characters and their situations carefully rather than just sit back and enjoy. It necessitates cognition.

In the process of these thoughts, it comes to light that Uninvited is a careful look at the concept of property and the importance placed on privacy in the twenty-first century. We hide behind our beige curtains, unwilling to communicate, as a result of being told for years that our home is our castle (“what’s a man without his mortgage?” questions a Bouffon, acting as conscience of both protagonist and audience). The suggestion is that, if we live like this in our closeted homes, only tragedy can follow.

This careful portrait of home life, set in “a modern, somewhat arboreal suburb”, is achieved through a gloriously imagined design by Rosie Bristow, like the world viewed in a hall of mirrors. The man’s clean, ordered house is slowly peppered with crumbs and drops, only small intrusions, but enough to demonstrate that return to ‘normality’ is impossible.

As when I first saw the piece in June, I’m still dubious about the somewhat nihilist and arbitrary ending, and I’m not sure the scenes with the Madeira Cake Lady (charmingly played by Amy Tobias) or the Window Cleaner (a calmly indignant Tom Dale) add much to the plot or the point, but they are nonetheless extremely well executed. These moments are also innovatively supported by Matthew Wells’ soundtrack, which uses found objects to create music which alarms and delights.

Roche extracts universally strong performances from his cast. Josh Goulding and Joe Boylan create good opposition as Me and Him; the former talks a lot and is constantly flustered, while the latter is mostly silent and still. It is Edward Davis, Emma Jane Denly and Kate Pearse as the Bouffons who steal the show, however, with witty improvisation and hugely watchable facial contortion.

Uninvited is by no means perfect, and I’m sure the company still have their best work to come, but it is a wonderfully absurd piece of tragicomedy which asks questions about the public and private self, and the way in which we view our home. Featuring some high-end performances and smart writing, it proves that, no matter what, Fat Git theatre will go on to do great things.

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