devised by Will Adamsdale, Neil Haigh, Matthew Steer and John Wright
at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 3rd May 2011
The behaviour of us men when we’re in groups is a peculiar thing. Our encounters often begin with seemingly harmless ‘banter’, slowly descending into various feats proving masculinity before ending up in deep and meaningful conversation. Under the direction of John Wright, Fuel Theatre’s Will Adamsdale, Neil Haigh and Matthew Steer present an hilarious look into the male psyche not without its impressive theatrical moments, taking us on a rather epic journey along the way.
Will’s stag in Iceland has gone awry, and Neil’s driving skills take the trio deep into the Scandinavian heartland, amongst the mountains and the polar bears. The summer house they’re staying in has a hot tub and is filled with curious artwork. Much of the next ninety minutes simply involves the three men discussing relationships, work and Bob Dylan, but towards the climax of the show we are treated to a beautiful chaos, including earthquakes, giants and broken artwork. Interspersed among the main story are two other strands representing the group’s take on Viking culture, told through short witty vignettes.
The Summer House is unashamed of its own theatricality, pulling out all the stops in the final moments to create some truly stunning images. Live and recorded sound are used to great effect, and a miniature model of the summer house on one side of the stage serves constantly to remind us of the bigger picture. Some remarkably funny (“Why is the sky green?”) and insightful (“It’s art if the artist says it is”) lines underpin the play’s awareness of how farfetched the story becomes, serving not to push us away but to pull us further in.
All three actors give highly energetic performances, (almost literally) baring all on stage. At the groom-to-be, Will Adamsdale shows a somewhat nervy but relatively cock-sure side of masculinity. Matthew Steer’s best man, complete with maps and laminates, shows the geek and awkwardness innate within all of us, and Neil Haigh does well do hide his secrets from the audience for so long, asking us to consider our outward appearance to other people.
Michael Vale’s ambitious design is set within a world somewhere between Ikea-catalogue-reality and Brechtian symbolism, supported by Ian Scott and Chris Branch’s lighting and sound. The Summer House succeeds most when taken as pure delight; the moments of attempted seriousness during discussions about Matt and Will’s jobs aren’t quite developed enough to warrant their existence, but this is perhaps due to the chaos ensuing around them. The resemblance to the farfetched nature of shows like The Inbetweeners allows us to revel in the men’s stupidity and acknowledge their humanity, whilst along the way creating a show which, above all, is damned good fun.