Winky at Soho Upstairs
From the minute you arrive at Soho’s Upstairs Theatre you are aware that this is going to be an odd production. There is an exceptionally grumpy looking woman sitting at a desk and sighing as you take your seats, which, ironically, are sporting different coloured paper party hats. This sort of awkward humour runs through the rest of the performance, at points coming off perfectly and sometimes just making you cringe.
Fat Git Theatre has adapted a short story by George Saunders for this production. It’s the bizarre tale of Neil Yanicky who is attending a self-help seminar to stop his sister from crapping in his oatmeal – metaphorically of course. This is self-help professional Tom Rodgers’ buzz phrase, which simply means cutting the person who is holding you back out of your life. It’s an interesting critique of the individualism of capitalism from Saunders but its adaptation into an hour-long production feels almost as drawn out as Rodgers’ oatmeal crapping metaphor.
There are funny moments, particularly at the beginning. Ed Davis is wonderful as Tom Rodgers and plays the part of enlightened salesman believably and without ever overdoing the stereotype. He pulls off a perfect mix of smarminess and intensity that has the audience in stitches. In truth, the show never truly recovers from the loss of Davis after the first half an hour.
Joe Boylan is very good at playing Neil Yanicky’s non-descript and colourless character, but consequently, there is little to say about him from an acting point of view. Amy Tobias as Winky starts off well as the comical oddball sister but her craziness soon becomes quite two dimensional, and the audience’s laughter gets slowly more tired as the show draws to a close. Lauren Stone plays the monotonous narrator of the play and at first her sullenness is strangely compelling, but her script also falls victim to director Josh Roche’s tendency to caricature his characters.
Winky is a lament from Saunders on the uselessness of decency in the face of capitalist culture. However, Roche’s insistence on sticking closely to the author’s frugal script drains the energy from a production that has the potential to be powerful and satirical.
Winky is at Soho Upstairs Theatre until 15th June 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: