Review: Fat Jewels

5 star rating
By turns comic, dark and deeply affecting, two men's lonely lives collide in an unusual, sometimes bizarre, but cracking drama realised with transfixing performances.
Fat Jewels at Hope Theatre

Image: Hope Theatre


Theatre: Hope Theatre

Closes here: Saturday 21 July 2018

Author:
Joseph Skelton

Director:
Luke Davies

Cast:

Danny - Robert Walters

Pat - Hugh Train


Synopsis


A South Yorkshire council estate.


Pat's having strange dreams.


He can't shake them.


He's gone round to Danny's for a chat and some healthy advice.


Lonely and dangerous, Danny insists that what Pat needs is a therapy programme of Danny's own making, involving cricket bats and trips to the zoo …


Background


Fat Jewels is a dark and surreal tragi-comedy about two lonely, repressed and marginalized individuals in a very hot room.


It's a play about disenfranchisement and anger, coercion and abused authority.


Fat Jewels was written by Joseph Skelton (The Noctambulist, winner Best New Writing, Durham Drama Festival) and directed by Luke Davies (The Chemsex Monologues, nom. Best Ensemble, Off West End Awards).


A Raving Mask Theatre production.


Raving Mask's most recent production, The Conductor, has toured around the UK and Europe and was the winner of the Jonathan Beecher award.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 5 July 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Islington's "little theatre with big ideas" feels just a tad smaller than usual as a living room wall squeezes down the acting space to lend a claustrophobic ambience to this unusual, at times bizarre, but wholly riveting play from Joseph Skelton.


The feeling of confinement is obviously intentional for a play set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a Yorkshire council estate community, where everyone knows each other and everyone mostly knows everyone else's business.

Hugh Train as Pat (left) and Robert Walters as Danny - photo by Laura Harling

Hugh Train as Pat (left) and Robert Walters as Danny - photo by Laura Harling


In this small, unremarkable living room we discover two unremarkable men: the young, seemingly naive Pat (played by Hugh Train) and an older man Danny (Robert Walters).


Though they know each other, they're not really friends, but something has drawn them together on this particular night at Danny's house.


Joseph Skelton's cracking script neatly drip-feeds us information as the play proceeds, and though everything becomes clear by the end, there are times when we're not sure just what is happening and why.


Pat still lives with his mother but is having unpleasant thoughts and nightmares about her involving, at least on one occasion, a vegetable peeler.


At the beginning there's talk of 'therapy' which Danny is going to programme and manage to change Pat's thoughts.


We hear of plans to visit the zoo - with a cricket bat (!) - a mission which is intended to be carried out under cover of darkness.


Pat seems enthusiastic about the plan for his therapy and happy (initially at least) to be in Danny's company.


Though it's Pat's therapy which occupies most of the earlier part of the play, we also realise that Danny has his own problems involving estrangement from his wife and child.


Hugh Train as Pat (left) and Robert Walters as Danny - photo by Laura Harling

Hugh Train as Pat (left) and Robert Walters as Danny - photo by Laura Harling

It's perhaps no accident, then, that at the beginning we see Pat sitting in a child's plastic chair as though he's somehow a replacement for Danny's son.


The older man is in command of events at the start, but as the evening wears on there's a reversal in the power dynamics of the situation.


Having talked about comedy sitting alongside drama in another review recently, this play demonstrates in style just how effectively that juxtaposition can work and also how unnerving it can be.


For there are times in Fat Jewels where the contrast between comedy and drama is unsettlingly extreme - one moment we're laughing and the next we're gulping to choke-off our amusement as something more poignant unexpectedly comes swooping in.


And there are heart-wrenching and emotionally-charged moments in the final section, combined with rage and a lacing of despair.


However, those dark and gloomy notes lift in the final words of the play as Joseph Skelton leaves us with some semblance of resolution as well as hope.


Director Luke Davies keeps a tight, authoritative grip on events whilst giving ample space for two fine, hugely watchable actors to strike totally believable descriptions of lonely men, struggling to make sense of their lives and find connection with other people.


Extraordinary, intense and totally absorbing with outstanding and transfixing performances, Fat Jewels ranks with the must-see plays of the year and looks well-placed for award nominations.



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