‘Fat Pig’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by February 20, 2017

‘Fat Pig’ is a romantic comedy by the Detroit-born playwright, film director and screenwriter, Neil LaBute. In 2005, after its run on Broadway, ‘Fat Pig’ won two major awards; one for ‘Outstanding Play’, the second for ‘Best New Comedy’.

As a young man, LaBute joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and studied theatre at Brigham Young University. Some of his plays were a little too near-the-bone for the Church, and some closed after their premieres; his being dis-fellowshipped from the Church ensued.

This fun, but controversial production, comes from the Old Mill Theatre Company, and can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth. The superb, 2-hour performances can be seen each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 pm until 25th February. There are matinées on Sunday 12th and 19th.

 

The set, designed and built by Les Hart and Greg Aylmore, comprises an office desk and a scarlet bed-settee. The walls are light grey with certificates and two of Brack’s abstract paintings of pencils. The rear wall is a screen for some wonderful, projected pictures that give authenticity to the setting (Nelson Clemente). There were office, bedroom, restaurant and beach photos, all stunning.

John Woolrich’s clever lighting design was subtle and effective; good operation by Andrew Fairfoul.

The stage manager (Siobhán O’Gara) and her assistant (Maggie Gebhardt) were particularly efficient and well organised.

 

      30-year old accountant, Tom (Alex Ripper) grabs a table in a snack bar to eat him spinach leaves and egg salad. He finds himself next an attractive, cheerful young librarian, Helen (Briana Dunn) who is ploughing her way through a tray of calorie-laden stodge. Tom notices her weight, but her busty body, smart outfit and her pretty face rapidly wins him over. They arrange to meet again.

       Unfortunately, the office gossip and stirrer, Carter (Steve Hounsome) is passing the food bar and sees Tom with this generously proportioned lady. He cannot wait to get back to work to tell all of the staff about Tom’s massive, fat pig girlfriend. First in line for the news is company auditor, Jeannie (Aileen Chew) who has fancied Tom for years, but their friendship has never quite developed. She is furious.

Poor Briana is called ‘Fat Pig’ in this play and was known as ‘Pig-tail Girl’ in her last performance. Let us hope she breaks the unearned tag.

LaBute’s plays normally provide very few specifics about the characters, this puts a huge pressure on the director; however, Les Morley-Hart, handled his cast with skill. The result was superb. I saw this play several years ago, but this production has far more feeling and chemistry. The characters were perfectly conceived, from bitchy to loving, the whole gamut of emotions was tastefully handled.

The male lead, Alex Ripper, stepped in only three weeks before opening night and was superb; he captured the shy, nervous, and socially incompetent young man perfectly.

Briana Dunn was faced with a challenging and daring part, but as a past winner of ‘Best Stage Chemistry’ –  it was no surprise to see her perfectly portray the bubbly, slightly flirtatious, attractive but plump girl. Briana had a huge range of emotions to depict, all of which really connected with the audience. An exceptional performance. I have to admire the girls who accept this part, as every night of the show’s season they are mocked and abused. It must take great courage and self-esteem to survive such an onslaught.

Tom’s girlfriend at work, Jeannie, was a nasty bit of stuff. An extremely jealous, conniving and cold woman, superbly played by Aileen Chew in her first major performance in Perth ……. And then there is the totally unscrupulous Carter, who hounded his colleague relentlessly, smiling as he did so – the audience squirmed at his dialogue. Played by Steve Hounsome making a welcome return to the stage after a few years break, he showed that he still has what it takes.

All of LaBute’s plays are difficult to stage but this was first class, ‘do not miss it’, production, that is hard to fault. Many congratulations.