Tag Archives: Josh Roche


at Pleasance Dome, Wednesday 7th August 2013

*Originally written for Culture Wars*

*Quick bit of housekeeping: I went to university with some of the people involved in this show and know them pretty well. But that doesn’t change my feelings about the show as I’d be able to tell them if I thought it was pants. Which it’s not*

How much choice do we have over our own lives? There are many things we can change about ourselves, but there’s one thing which is prescribed from birth and which we can only change through a long and complex process: our sex. In Specie, people can change their sexual organs at will, creating a whole new understanding of gender. In FatGit Theatre’s production, the idea of choice is celebrated in a production which doesn’t try and move too fast, allowing us to take it all in.

The story (penned by Joe White) spans a good couple of decades, telling the story of how a young girl (Lily) became a boy (Louis) at the choice of his parents, Continue reading “Specie”



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.

Preview: Fat Git Theatre’s “Uninvited”

at the Capital Studio, Saturday 9th June 2012

Fat Git Theatre’s last production, The Nose, was created in a short space of time, and its haphazard and pop-up feel reflected that. Their new show Uninvited, however, has been a year in the making and comes across as a far more accomplished piece of theatre, marrying the absurdity of the company’s style with a more complete narrative whilst taking some hilariously funny turns in the process.

In the piece, based on Peter Mortimer’s novella of the same name, a man comes home from work one day to find a stranger in his house. His daily routine is utterly shattered by the intruder, who initially simply sits silently in order to upset his host. Soon, however, a latent violence manifests itself into something far darker as the protagonist’s world is utterly shattered.

I worry somewhat about the nihilism of the story – there’s very little optimism in its conclusion – but thankfully Josh Roche has directed it in such a way that the overriding tone is one of comedy. In his portrayal of the central character (named ‘Me’), Josh Goulding is hilarious, showing a man so set in his ways that it makes sense that this break-in causes a break-down. This man is excruciatingly dull, and it initially seems like this event will pull him out of his reverie to engage better with the world around him.

In Roche’s production, the man’s only friends are the Bouffons (Edward Davis, Kate Pearse and Emma Jane Denly), who are part of his beige and nondescript furniture. His house is his castle, and these his guards at the gates. In a world where the private sphere is being constantly encroached upon and violated, it makes sense that the only comfort here is found behind closed doors and in the purity of one’s own thoughts. We hate this figure for his small-mindedness, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him.

As the stranger, Joe Boylan is quietly terrifying, saying very little until the climax of the play and stage managing the house to scare the man and play with his paranoia. Fittingly, he is the only normal person in this absurd world. It feels like a little more anticipation of his final horrid act could be useful in order to make us feel more guilty about laughing. These final few moments are a little like a Martin McDonagh play that Ionesco has structured; this isn’t as mad as it sounds, for both writers feed off and send up the absurdity of life, meaning they are happily married here.

Fat Git were a hot ticket at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and there’s no doubt they’re on a course for the same trajectory this year. In less than a year, the company’s style has matured in a way which has begun to best use the grotesque to inform a narrative. It’s also thrilling to find yourself thinking about the play for a long time afterwards, for though I found myself in a state of perpetual laughter, Uninvited also does an impressive job of challenging and redefining our expectations.

“The Nose”

based on the short story by Nikolai Gogol

adapted by Josh Roche

at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 28th June 2011

Often, the way in which a story is told can be far more interesting than the tale itself. The thrust of a plot can be dreadful, but if  we are interested in the craft of the narration an audience’s attention can be held nonetheless. Such is the case with Fat Git Theatre’s production of The Nose, which, aware of the thinness of the story it tells, manages to find intrigue in bravado and absurdity.

There isn’t much more to the plot other than the fact that Kovalyov loses his nose and finds that it manages to gain higher status than he. It is a wonderfully surreal story, and Gogol makes no attempt to give any explanation. Josh Roche’s text relishes the inconclusive nature of Gogol’s story and adds in a narrator – the Beast – and his aide – Stick – who are the audience’s way in.

The sheer theatricality of The Nose is what makes it such a success. It is so aware of itself that we are not once asked to believe in a word that is being said. Typified by the delineation of a white sheeted playing space outside of which actors remain neutral, we are constantly reminded we are watching a performance. Paints of various colours are splashed onto the white backdrop, transforming the stage from dull autonomy to diverse vibrancy, and music created from scissors and newspaper accompanies the mechanical pysicality.

The ensemble of actors embody the absurdism on show, inhabiting grotesque and inhuman characters, thus furthering the idea that we enjoy the telling of a story and not the tale itself. Joe Boylan as the weak Yakovlevich creeps across the stage; his physicality is mesmerising to watch. The decision to cast Kovalyov as a woman is interesting; at first it seems bizarre but it’s clear that the lost nose is a symbol of being emasculated. Kate Pearse bumbles along as the protagonist, and Shubham Saraf as Stick is the emobidment of Roche’s style. I wonder slightly, however, about the decision to portray Tom Syms’ characters as more human; when he is on stage his less grotesque persona doesn’t quite chime with the overall feel.

The current production of The Government Inspector at the Young Vic tries so hard to be surreal and real that the two worlds collide without having any coherence. What Roche has discovered is the importance of taking Gogol’s work with a very large pinch of salt, and he succeeds where Richard Jones failed. This is a beautifully original production from an up and coming theatre company, and is bound to be a hot ticket at Edinburgh later this year.