Paul T Davies reviews Joseph Skelton’s play Fat Jewels starring Robert Walters and Hugh Train at The Hope Theatre.
The Hope Theatre
11 July 2018
Well, this was a unique theatrical experience for me! We arrived at the Hope theatre to find that the pub was screening the England v Croatia match, and the pub was packed, and my partner and I were the only audience booked in. “Do we still want to see the play?” Well, yes, having made the effort we did, and the actors were ready to perform for us. Thus began a performance in which the actors played a blinder and brought home a tense, enjoyable production that was in perfect synergy with the changing mood of the football crowd downstairs!
Pat has gone to the home of Danny to receive “therapy”, systems and games that Danny has devised to help Pat come to terms with his anxiety and inadequacy in life. Yet Danny is harbouring his own insecurities, living apart from his wife and child, he still feels responsibility for a terrible accident that befell his son. Danny is also closeted and has deep feelings for the much younger Pat, and uses masculinity and games to get closer to him, to force intimacy. His claim that “this is a safe place” turns out to be vastly untrue, and Pat eventually responds angrily and forces some truths to be faced.
In the small Hope Theatre and being the only audience, it felt like literally being in someone’s living room and the tension was palpable. As Danny, Robert Walters gives a perfect performance of fractured masculinity, trapped by the posturing that his class and financial situation demand from him, yet handling Danny’s vulnerability perfectly- this is a man who just wants to be held, and loved. Hugh Train is perfect as Pat, naive and too trusting, yet finding his voice to clearly express what is not acceptable, and has fleeting hopes that blackmailing Danny will give him a chance to live a “normal” life. It was good to see lower class characters with such reality; this environment is written form the heart, not from a distance.
Joseph Skelton’s script moves seamlessly through their friendship and into the darker areas of desire and vulnerability. I felt that the back story could still be fleshed out more, I’m still uncertain how this “therapy” came about, and Pat moves too easily from mainly innocence of technology to becoming quite savvy on his mobile phone. Yet there is a tension, best symbolised by a sleeping bag fight that leaves you fearing for the actors as they crash to the ground very close to the seating, that builds and sways beautifully and a tone of hope is struck at the conclusion. Luke Davies’s excellent production certainly deserves a bigger audience, and, for me, the way the actors embraced the unique challenge of the night is what theatre should be about. Highly recommended.
Until 21 July 2018