Tag Archives: Uninvited

“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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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.