The Ungrateful Biped at the White Bear Theatre
In The Ungrateful Biped we witness the spiteful, proud ranting of a lonely man. In the theatre space above the cosy White Bear pub, an intense, existential monologue digs into unresolved life questions and a deep hatred of society.
An unnamed man opens a YouTube channel. His uploads overstep the limit of decency and enjoyment, and are in stark contrast to the self-indulging and embellished videos of web influencers. Declaring himself as “the antithesis of a normal person”, the solitary protagonist talks about his serious illness, which needs cures that he refuses. Instead, he states “thinking too much is a disease”: his current living conditions are the only appropriate escape from the ungrateful human breed. His mother died when he was very young, and after school he moved in the hinterlands of London. In between the hateful diatribes against those foul passions that drive human beings to insanity, the man reveals a single encounter he had with a girl who loved him. How to judge this episode within the picture of loathing that’s been presented is up to the audience.
The script is one of the most striking and beautiful elements of this production. Adapted from Dostoyevsky’s novel Notes From Underground, the powerful text presents the anti-hero of a modern society. What may sound like the random and inconsistent spouting of a 40-odd-year-old lonely man turns out to be a lucid and flowing monologue that doesn’t halt or result in disorder.
The play doesn’t persuade us of the rightness of the protagonist’s sick mentality, neither does it make theatregoers comfortable in supporting his view, but the show has its logic and the chain of reactions is crystal clear. The impact on the viewer is strong, as we are faced with the anger and aversion of a fellow human being. The beauty of the piece, amid the crescendo of rough terms and verbal attacks, lies in the central lines, where the language is rich and delivered like poetry.
Philip Goodhew injects an unparalleled energy into his character. Moody and melodramatic, the actor presents a tormented personality, a man deep in his thoughts and sophisticated in his lunacy. Rupert Graves brilliantly rises to the challenge of his directing debut, with 90 minutes of profound human analysis that passes almost in an instant.
Photo: Andreas Lambis
The Ungrateful Biped is at the White Bear Theatre from 30th January until 17th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.