Grotty at the Bunker
It’s always fascinating to see plays that manage to explore both the deeply specific experiences of an individual or community, but also plumbs more universal human experiences. This is something that Grotty does wonderfully, portraying a part of London’s lesbian subculture and also showing a very human desire for affection and companionship in a miserable world. However, the piece isn’t without issues and the audience is frequently left longing for a deeper exploration of some characters and a clearer picture of some of the plot.
Izzy Tennyson is not only the playwright but also the lead character, Rigby, in this all-female production. Grotty depicts Rigby’s struggle to exist in the lesbian culture she finds herself a part of, dealing with her own mental health problems and trying to build relationships with others. The text itself is wonderfully witty despite the bleakness of the story, much of it delivered to the audience as a monologue from the protagonist, as sharp observational humour becomes her defence against a world that is slightly too painful. Watching her spiral downwards is compulsively fascinating, as she grows ever more neurotic and desperate, struggling to find a place for herself. Hannah Hauer-King’s direction is understated and well-suited to the play, allowing Rigby’s character to drive the action forwards.
Unfortunately, the secondary characters are far less well developed, frequently feeling one dimensional. “Toad” (Rebekah Hinds) is Rigby’s girlfriend at the beginning of the show, and though there are intriguing suggestions of insecurities, she mostly remains a stereotype of a “fat lesbian”, complete with bitchy friend Natty (Anita Joy-Uwajeh). “Witch” (Grace Chilton), Rigby’s girlfriend later on and Toad’s ex, seems to have replaced character with a kinky side, and despite the revelation of some rather nasty past trauma she remains unsatisfying.
Most unsatisfying of all, however, is the appearance of Rigby’s mother, played by Clare Gollop, at the end of the piece, in a final scene at an unclear point in the timeline. It leaves theatregoers unsure as to whether we’re supposed to blame this mother for Rigby’s mental health issues, which seems both a disturbing and oddly simplistic conclusion to reach. But no other form of resolution is provided, and so despite some excellent writing and performances beforehand, we leave dissatisfied.
Photo: The Other Richard
Grotty is at the Bunker from 1st until 26th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.