Wednesday, 9 April 2003

The Fat Boy by Tony Ayres, April 9, 2003

 The Fat Boy by Tony Ayres, by Playbox Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, April 9 to 26, 2003 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 9

There is a precarious balancing act going on in Tony Ayres new play, The Fat Boy. The script teeters awkwardly between moments of tragedy and high camp comedy. The mix is not quite successful.

The opening scenes in this production directed by Tom Healey  were exceptional but the rest was a disappointment. The Fat Boy is uncertain of its genre. It is not really a black comedy although it makes light of dark moments in people's lives. The rather obvious gags come after the tragic events rather than arising out of them.

The comedy in these instances merely undercuts the tragedy, pulls the rug out form under them so that we are not permitted to feel anything.   It is disappointing. A woman's (Carolyn Bock) baby dies of cot death, another woman (Melia Naughton) loses her pregnancy after a car accident, a gay lad (Tim Richards) is beaten, a woman (Kate Fitzpatrick) goes blind from diabetes.

The opening night audience laughed - a lot.  It is difficult, though, to gauge how satisfying the theatrical experience was for them. The play lacks substance. It shifts genres like a far shifting gears but never settles into a style.

Three stories are tenuously and artificially linked through Trevor, (Richards) the fat boy of the title. Although he is the titular character, the story is not necessarily about him. His tragedy is far less dominant than the other characters'.

Trevor  is a 24 year old gay man who cannot find love because his surrounding shallow gay scene is prejudiced against fat and demands thinness and beauty. Richards is lively and charming but the limited dialogue forces him to play one note most of the time.

Kate Fitzpatrick is very funny as his trashy, palm-reading harridan of a mother. Joseph Manning  makes the young country lad and his coming out story credible.

One great asset on stage is the design. Paul Jackson's  lighting design is superb filling the stage with colour or steeping Leon Salom's  startlingly stark set in a cool, ominous blue glow. Soundscape by David Franzke  is evocative and challenging.

The problem in this production is not the acting or direction but the stereotypical, two-dimensional characters and predictable gags.

By Kate Herbert

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