Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Animal @ Park Theatre “it's great. It's full of vim, zip, pep, and w*nking”

Occasionally something comes along that you think might be one thing, but actually takes you somewhere unexpected. And looking back you perhaps knew that's where is was going all the time.
Animal is a play about sex. And it's great. It's full of vim, zip, pep, and wanking. And it's very funny. And Kevin, Roger, and I went to see it last night at the Park Theatre in London's glitzy Finsbury Park.
David (Christopher John-Slater) is a horny disabled 25-year old gay man looking to lose his virginity with all the associated challenges that come with that - the personal, the practical, and inevitably the prejudicial. 
OK, I say ‘disabled’ but David puts it better...
David: "I don’t have a disability" 
His date: "That’s the spirit!"
David: "No. I don’t have a disability. I have a medical condition. I have cerebral palsy."
Playwright Jon Bradfield (with a story co-created with Josh Hepple, who has cerebral palsy) sets out his stall well. This new play covers a lot of serious subjects; virtue signalling, accessibility issues, conscious and unconscious bias, informed consent, body dysmorphia. But ultimately, it's a play about getting your end away complete with lots of knob gags. 
David lives with his generous, caring flatmate Jill (Amy Loughton) and is assisted by an optimistic, struggling actor called Derek (Matt Ayleigh). And we meet a cast of other flamboyant, funny, and downright sexy characters as the action progresses.
What David lacks in conventional mobility he makes up for in better-than-average dick pics. So Animal begins by following him as he negotiates the unforgiving and relentless world of app dating.
Disregard all your assumptions about what such a play might entail. The combination of Bradfield’s propulsive, fat-free dialogue and Slater-John’s brooding, hormone-charged performance ensure that Animal never drags, preaches or befuddles. Yes, it’s hard-hitting, but Bronagh Lagan's lively production feels more like a feature-length, live episode of an award-winning sitcom. A really good one at that.
And that unexpected turn? Well in the second act David starts to behave like a bit of a dick. He messes up, crosses a line or two, he gets over-keen, makes a ton of bad choices, can't apologise, and throws his toys out of the pram. That is to say, it is the behaviour of anyone new of the dating scene. So perhaps not so unexpected after all.
Gregor Donnelly's set does exactly what you want it to do. It's simple and highlights the drama with a satisfying amount of eye-catching pizzazz while never diminishing the work done by the cast. Among the supporting players, Loughton deserves significant praise for her arrestingly dignified portrayal of Jill. A performer of obvious strength and versatility, Loughton turns a character that could have felt cypher-ish into an undeniable moral linchpin.
If the above sounds appealing, I urge you to go and check out this punchy play. It closes this Saturday.
In a world that’s increasingly held static by the stultifying effects of identity politics, it’s marvellous to find something that deals with so many 'Big' and 'Important' themes in such a breezy, confident, and funny way.
Best line? Jill is about to leave David for the weekend and go on hen do.
Jill: "It’s a hen. All women. Oh, and one gay guy. He’s meant to be the 'live and soul of the party'. So, you know he’ll be utterly insufferable" :-)

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